Academy of Music
Manager / Director:
25 September 2017
“The opening night of Manager Maretzek’s grand season was certainly a great success. An immense audience filled the house to overflowing, and from the rising of the curtain until the end of the performance their applause was continuous. We have not the space to enter into full details as regards the entire performance, which was a most careful and pleasing rendition of Verdi’s chef d’oeuvre, as originally composed, and will but add that Manager Maretzek has a most admirable company, and that we look forward to an uninterrupted series of favorite operas, which, performed by such artists as Medori, Sulzer, Mazzolini and Bellini, can but prove irresistible attractions to the habitues of the Academy of Music. The first act introduced the prima donne, Medori (Leonora), Mlle. Sulzer (Azucena), Signor Mazzolini (Maurico), the tenor, and Signor Bellini (Count di Luna), the baritone, all of whom made the most favorable impression upon the audience. Medori has a fine voice, which she uses admirably, added to which she is most forcible and dramatic. Her success was incontestable, loud and enthusiastic applause greeting her first aria. We can surely predict that Medori will become a great favorite, if we are to judge by her great success last evening.
Mlle. Sulzer, as Azucena, was pleasing and effective, though perhaps lacking power at times. She is, however, an attractive artist, and was duly applauded.
Mazzolini is a tenor robusto; his voice is firm and pleasing, giving to the audience a sensation of confidence that the artist will safely get through all he undertakes. He is a graceful and finished actor, and from that fact must become an immense favorite. He enters into the spirit of his role with great fire and energy, and withal with [sic] grace and ease, and thus adds greatly to the effect produced by his fine voice. He was greeted by the audience in the heartiest manner, and ere the end of the second act was a favorite. Signor Bellini was suffering from hoarseness, but it was evident he is a finished artist, possessing talent of high order, and that, like Mazzolini, he is a thorough actor. His voice we could not so well judge of, as he was quite hoarse; still at times he gave evidences of an organ which must be a most pleasing and powerful one.
To conclude, we must congratulate the management and the public upon the advent of a troupe of artists such as New York never before possessed, and may safely aver that we now have before us promise of a sustained and successful season.”
“Mr. Max Maretzek resumed his old position at the Academy of Music last evening, and was greeted by a full and fashionable deputation from all classes of the music-loving community. There was probably not an unprofessional auditor in that immense audience that did not feel a thrill of satisfaction at seeing a practical man once more at the head of the direction of the principal art establishment of the New World. The interests of the Academy, so far as Italian Opera is concerned, have not been well conserved in the absence of such a head. Various experiments of singular audacity and barren result have been made; such, for instance, as trying to give grand opera without grand artists, and mainly on the strength of a few pieces of ‘armour by Granger of Paris,’—a chivalric device that failed utterly; then came the epoch of diminished forces, when an orchestra of twenty-eight was considered sufficient, and a chorus of equal magnitude had to sentinel the stage, and make an imposing effect before the public. There are many small towns in Europe where economical contrivances of this sort are practiced, but the Academy sank even lower than these, for the operas played were not given entire as they are almost sure to be there. The absence of any musical head to the concern resulted naturally in a degree of license that was almost incredible. Everything that presented the slightest difficulty to the singers or the players was inexorably cut out; hence, we have had the rudiments of operas, not the works themselves.
The indications of a superior rule are noticeable in all the departments under Mr. Maretzek’s supervision. The orchestra has been generally strengthened, and can boast now of eight first violins, seven second violins, three violas, four violincellos and four double basses—a quartette that, with the usual complement of wood and brass instruments, brings the numerical strength of the band up to forty-five players—a phenominal number here, although still below the European average. The chorus has been strengthened mainly in the female department, where heretofore it has been weakest. It is now well balanced and powerful. Of the principal artists we may say briefly that they achieved generally a success last evening, when ‘Il Trovatore’ was played throughout without cuts, transpositions or interpolations. The cast was as follows: [Lists cast and roles]. We have only time and space to refer briefly to the artists who were thus introduced for the first time to our public.
Signora Medori enjoys a European reputation, and has won her best triumphs on the hardest fields of the Continent. Her voice is still clear, round and full. It is eminently susceptible of dramatic expression, but is not very ductile. In the upper register it has to be forced, and then deflexes from the correct intonation, producing a painful effect. Mme. Medori’s style is grand, and we have no doubt that nervousness and change of climate had much to do with the only defect we have referred to—bad intonation. In the fourth act, she acted and sang with excellent effect.
Signor Mazzolini’s success was thoroughly complete. It began with a hearty recognition, and ended with an ovation—for the tenor’s opportunities are in the third and last acts, and for these, without restraining himself too much, he made ample provision. Like all modern tenors, Signor Mazzolini has a robusto voice, but it is not of the gusty kind to whch we have been accustomed. Although of unusual power, it possesses rare quality, and is indeed so sympathetic in the upper part, and full in the lower, that almost any role is within his reach. Signor Mazzolini’s qualifications do not cease here. He is—strange to say—an actor, and infuses rare spirit and intelligence into a pat which has been rarely visited with those qualities. Graceful in movement; excellent in style; extraordinarily gifted in voice, and, we should think, a well-informed musician, it seems as if we had found in this gentlemean a tenor who can recall not unworthily the best efforts of Signor Salvi. We have never heard the slow movement of the aria in the third act sang with more exquisite taste, or the succeeding ‘Di quella pira’ with better squareness and spirit. In the prison scene of the last act, and more particularly in the in the last scene of all, he was remarkably good.
Signor Bellini, the baritone, was hardly in a position to reveal the extraorindary beauty of his voice, but won a hearty recognition for the willingness with which he did his best, notwithstanding the most evident indisposition. An apology was subsequently made for the gentleman, and we therefore reserve our remarks until another and more favorable opportunity.
Mlle. Sulzer, the Azucena of the evening, possesses a very agreeable mezzo-soprano voice, and sings well. She is also a good actress; indeed, Mr. Maretzek’s present company is remarkable for the fact that all the artists are also good actors. The performance, in consequence, went off with much spirit.The reception awarded to the artists was of the heartiest character. They were recalled enthusiastically, and cheers upon cheers greeted them as they passed before the footlights. Mr. Maretzek, himself, was, of course, the recipient of much of this heartiness, and bowed apologetically, as if the evening’s entertainment had not quite come up to his expectation, however much it has exceeded that of the public. Every allowance, has, of course, to be made for artists so newly arrived in our midst; but without straining this point, it is perfectly fair to say that the Company at the Academy of Music is by far the best we have had for many years.”
“Max Maretzek’s new opera troupe is in every repsect a contrast to the companies which have recently visited us. Under Mr. Grau we have had a series of cabinet lyric pictures—operas in miniature—sung by delicate, finished artists like Cordier, Cuerrabella, Kellogg and Brignoli, but Maretzek’s lyric representations are on a far different scale. Everything is large and massive, though at times lacking finish.
Medori, the new prima donna, proved before her opening recitative was concluded, that she was an experienced and dramatic singer, and this impession was fully confirmed as the opera proceeded. She sings and acts with great vigor, for which her large physical frame and powerful voice amply qualify her. She is a luxurious singer—rich in voice and style, and unsparing in the use of showy cadenzas, which at times tax the lungs more than the larynx—are more noticeable for vocal force than for vocal execution. In the close of the second act, ‘Sei tu dal ciel,’ and in the whole of the fourth act Medori was very effective, and almost every piece she sang, including the restored air in the last act, was rewarded with liberal applause.
Bellini, the baritone, is a large man of commanding presence, with a ringing metallic voice, which was last night veiled by hoarseness. He is perfectly at home on the stage.
Sulzer, the contralto—really a mezzo soprano—is uneven. Her middle notes are somewhat weak and worn, but the lower and upper tones very fine. At times she created a notable sensation, as in the duet with the tenor in the second act and in her air in the third; while other points, in which her predecessors have been so happy; she failed to make; but ‘one star differeth from another sat in glory.’
The most brilliant success of the brilliant evening was that won by the new tenor, Mazzoleni, a man favored with a splendid figure and expressive face, a wonderfully powerful robust voice, and great grace of action and dignity of manner. He is not ashamed to act as well as sing, and this act went far towards ensuring his success. In the andante air of the third act, Mazzoleni introduced some novel effects, which ensured a hearty encore, and in the other more dramatic portion of his part he won repeated triumphs. Essentially a singer of the robust style he is singularly suited for Verdi’s music, and with singers of the same class, like Medori and Bellini, will give us a series of representations of the Verdi operas such as we have not been favored with of late.
The opera was admirably put upon, the stage particularly as regards costumes, in which figured those famous helment and breastplates imported from Paris. Mazzoleni’s costume was a marvel of good taste and richness.
There were in this remarkable performance of Trovatore some evidences of a ‘first night’—obstreperous scenery, intrustive ‘wings’ and chorus singers who did not know what to do with themselves. Indeed, there was one valiant warrior—Irish by birth—who was so tardy in retiring from the foot lights, that the curtain fell between him and his comrades, leaving him exposed to the amused audience in bold relief against the green baize. The warrior sought refuge in flight.The house was brilliantly attended and very enthusiastic. General McDowell occupied a proscenium box. Altogether the opening of the Maretzek opera season was the most notable musical event we have had for a year or two past, and is happy augury of continued success.”
“We have had during the winter spasmodic attempts at opera. Promises most brilliant were made; but the fetes had decided that their keeping should be impossible—aside, sore throats and fevers were showered upon our favorite artists, thus depriving us not only of the tempting novelties which were in store for us, but even causing a total cessation of opera. Sm[illeg.] under our disappointment, we solaced ourselves with the reflection that the Maretzek opera troupe were to wind up the season; and as this was our forlorn hope, we clung to it with due tenacity. At last the moment arrived for decisive action; the troupe, of which we had heard so much, left the genial climate of Cuba and came to this cold, rainy, uncertain temperature to decide whether a sustained operatic season could be given in New York. On Friday evening last the trial was made, an immense audience being present to hear artists as yet unknown in this city save by the fame of triumphs achieved elsewhere. From parquet to dome the Academy of Music was crowded. Manager Maretzek has the reputation of putting operas upon the stage in a most artistic manner. He fully understands the necessity of ample choruses and powerful and complete orchestras, and is aware that the success of the most renowned artists is heightened by a careful and rich mise en scene. In fact he takes an artist’s view of all these things, which are necessary to the full enjoyment of any opera. It was remarked with much pleasure on Friday that the orchestra was one sufficiently numerous and powerful to do justice to the music of the favorite opera to be performed. It may not be amiss to state here that, spite of the difficulties Manager Maretzek had to encounter in the way of procuring choristers, Messrs. Grau and Anschutz having engaged all to be found, he managed to make up a very effective chorus, particularly in the female line, where before it had most lacked. ‘Il Trovatore,’ the opera chosen for the debut of the Maretzek troupe, was given as originally composed by Verdi. There were no cuts, no interpolations, no shirking of one aria for the sake of coming out more powerfully in some other. The maestro’s chef d’oeuvre was given in all its integrity. The principal artists of this troupe all had roles in the opera, and certainly they had to contend against lively recollections of recent most delightful renditions of those same roles. The great success they achieved is but enhanced by this very fact. The forlorn hope were [sic] successful. They took the New York opera-goers by storm. Ere the termination of the first act the tumultuous applause of the public proved their entire subjection. We do not doubt that all of the vast assembly which witnessed the debut of the Maretzek troupe are now fully satisfied that a sustained operatic season in New York is a most feasible undertaking.
Manager Maretzek, who conducted the efficient orchestra, was received with great favor by the public. The moment he made his appearance loud applause greeted him.
Mme [sic, no period] Medori, the prima donna, has a fine, commanding appearance, and is very dramatic and forcible; her voice is rich in style and under great control. At times, when strained to a high pitch, it is more forcible than pleasing; but this is a rare exception, while her bold and dashing fiorituri passages are most artistically executed. There is power displayed at every moment, while lower notes are most purely and sweetly sung. We were prepared for excellence in the new prima donna, as she has a world wide reputation, and were not disappointed; she will become an immense favorite, we do not doubt. The applause which was bestowed upon her efforts at her debut was conclusive of this. The grand aria in the fourth act at the close of the ‘Miserere,’ which was never before sung at our Academy, was rendered by Mme. Medori with great dramatic, we might say more justly, with tragic effect. The aria is one taxing greatly the powers of an artist; if tamely rendered, it would fail to please. As sung by Medori it was starting in its dramatic force. Already a favorite, Medori will become doubly so when she shall have appeared in such roles as Norma, Lucrezia Borgia and others, requiring not only a finely cultivated voice, but dramatic power. All these qualifications are, to a rare degree, possessed by the new prima donna.
Mlle. Sulzer, who made her first appearance in New York in the ‘Trovatore,’ was also eminently successful. She was evidently suffering from the nervousness inseperable from a debut, but proved herself not only a fine singer, but also a good actress. She has a most pleasing mezzo soprano voice, which is more powerful than was apparent at her debut. We say this, having heard the second representation of the ‘Trovatore’ at the matinee on Saturday, upon which occasion Mlle. Sulzer was much more effective than at her first appearance. She acts the role of Azucena with judgment, while rendering the music purely and sweetly. She was certainly most successful in producing a favorable impression upon the public, and received a liberal share of applause.
Sig. Mazzolini, the tenor, is now a favorite in New York. He was this at the end of the second act of the ‘Trovatore.’ His success was a brilliant one, which he fully deserved. His serenade before he had appeared upon the stage was greeted with immense applause. He sang it so well, with such force and purity, the voice was so animating, from its very power, that it thrilled the audience, who gave unequivocal signs of satisfaction. From that moment until the fall of the curtain the success of the tenor increased until it assumed the proportions of an ovation. Signor Mazzolini is a tenore robusto. His voice is powerful to a degree; but it is also of rare quality, is fully, but sweet, and above all is sympathetic. Generally a tenore robusto has something akin to harshness in the voice. None who heard Signor Mazzolini’s debut will attribute any such defect to his splendid organ. He possesses other qualifications which increased his success. He is a good, a very effective and graceful actor, and has a fine stage appearance. He was excellent in so many scenes that we can scarcely particularize, but would point out as most effective his ‘Di quella pira,’ which succeeded the andante aria in the third act, the ‘Miserere’ and the prison scene, in all of which he was most pleasing and successful.
Signor Bellini, the baritone, we are aware, from his great reputation, possesses a magnificent voice. On the night of his debut it was veiled by hoarseness; but still, at times, flashes of his powerful execution were perceptible. We cannot, of course, criticise the performance of an artist who, although indisposed, lent his services rather than occasion a change of performance, beside which, criticism in his case is unnecessary. We know that he is an artist of unusual merit. His voice is powerful, while as an actor he is renowned for his force and energy.
Taken as a whole, the present troupe is the most effective which New York has possessed for years, and fully capable of carrying out the promise made by Manager Maretzek of a most brilliant operatic season. We are assured that the choruses will be still further increased, carefully rehearsed, and that unusual care will be taken by the management to render the mise en scene of the grand operas to be produced most brilliant and effective. The orchestra is an ample one, and, conducted by Manager Maretzek himself, can but be all it should.”
“There was, on Friday at the Academy of Music, something the public of New York had not witnessed, or rather heard, in a long time: the debut of a complete quartet. The tactic adopted in these latter years by directors consisted of speaking about the details of the new artists, of making them appear one after another, to multiply the allure of curiousity and the opportunity for [box-office] receipts. Maretzek has bravely broken with this tradition; he chose, to open the season, an opera that brought him to produce his four principal artists--prima donna, contralto, tenor and baritone--together. He is a man of boldness and willingly launches himself outside of the beaten path.
The first consequence of this quadruple debut was a completely new interpretation of Trovatore, none of the performers having any of the attractions and character to which the New York audience is accustomed. The audience found itself a bit perplexed and because of this circumstance the general success of the evening wasn't what it should have been. The performance ended without the recall of the ensemble that certainly should have crowned it. But the personal success of each of the singers hasn't been decided yet and is sure to increase, in proportion as they are more known on all sides.
Mme Medori is a dramatic singer of great power. Her voice, without possessing all the freshness of youth, is still at the height of its qualities. On can object to a tremolo that came back too frequently and too great a brevity in the production of a note, which wasn't held long enough. But the merits outweigh the observations that a critic could make.
It's the same for Mlle Sulzer, who is, to put it properly, a mezzo soprano rather than a real contralto. Her voice appeared to lack fullness at this performance. On the other hand, it is handled with great security and of a very pleasing timbre when it isn't forced.
The tenor, M. Mazzoleni, took the hall by storm-- a triumph to make the house fall down. He possesses one of those voices that you could call di bravura, with vibrant and metallic sounds, of which the first effect is irresistible. For the same reason, however, he should be on guard against surprises of the ear and not be in a hurry to put his mouth to a victorious trumpet, for fear of putting a mute in it later. With that reservation, I affirm that M. Mazzzoleni combines fortunate gifts. A spirited actor of good presence, he has admirable diction and very expressive phrasing. Perhaps, on acquaintance, his voice will not be irreproachable and will lack flexibility in arias of elegance or pure feeling. For the moment, there are only bravos to award him, and he has largely earned them.
M. Bellini, the baritone, would surely have shared them, if he hadn't been paralyzed by a state of suffering that the director didn't have to announce [in order for it] to be visible. In spite of this untoward accident, it was easy to recognize that he has a good voice and a lot of dash.
That last quality is very much in common among the four artists. With this relationship, they form a totally remarkable ensemble and one can rely upon seeing the operas that they come up with successively played like they have scarcely ever been on our stage. Without being the essential point in the substance of Italian opera, it's a subject that's not at all to be scorned and on which we have never been surfeited.
Maretzek personally received a welcome that proves to him that absent [people] aren't always wrong. He deserves it, however, for not content to bring forth an entirely new company, he has done things handsomely. The orchestra counts 45 musicians, for whom only a few rehearsals were lacking; the chorus and the supernumeraries are more numerous and better costumed than they have been in the past two years; besides, the program for the season announces that all the operas will be played without cuts, a rarity without precedent. To begin with, Mme Medori restored a a brilliant and very difficult aria in the fourth act which had been passed over in silence until the present. These are the early fruits of the season made for heightening the attraction of the productions. ”
“As I have mentioned, a new season of opera was inaugurated on Friday evening last by that most popular and successful of managers, Max Maretzek. A simple notice of four or five lines, published in one or two dailies, was the only announcement of his coming. ‘The Havana Opera Troupe will open the Academy of Music early in March.’ It was all. No enormous puffing of artists; no ‘swinging’ of photographic prints of Mme. This, and Mlle. That, no grand promises of managerial impossibilities, but a moderate, simple announcement of the fact that there would be a season of opera in March.
Max is a man of experience, a musician and one who knows considerable of the world. He has had many a hard-fought battle with rival managers, and his last experience with us was at the Winter Graden, when with Fabbri and Stigelli he was contesting the ground with Ullmann’s forces at the Academy. Under his enterprising management, La Juive, I Masnadieri, and Nabuco were produced for the first time in New York. His record in the past is good; for the future we will wait and see, but there can be no question as to his ability and honesty of intention.* The Havana troupe which Maretzek now marshals under his baton is as follows:
Sopranos: Mme. Medori and Mlle. Brignoli; Contraltos: Mlle. Sulzer; Tenors: Sig. Mazzoleni, Ippolitg [sic]; Basso: Sig. Biachi and Maffei; and Colletti, Muller, and other Secondaries.
The opening night was first announced for last Wednesday, but on account of the non-arrival of the baritone Signor Bellini from Havana and the difficulty experienced in obtaining a sufficient number to officiate in the chorus and orchestra, the occasion was deferred until Friday night. The opening night was an ovation. Such an array of ‘fair women and brave men;’ such rows of exquisite toilet; such a galazy of beauty, and such a show of life and enthusiasm it has rarely been the good fortune of the oldest habitué to witness. Max Maretzek, upon ascending the conductor’s platform, was greeted with cheers and the loudest expression of satisfaction. Verdi’s ‘Trovatore’ was selected for the presentation of the artists of the evening, all of whom were debutants! Medori, Sulzer, Mazzolini and Bellini. Four names new to all, without anything but their merits by which to be elevated into renown or degraded into obscurity.
Medori launched out with her first aria, and the house applauded to the very echo. A full, powerful, rich voice, almost beyond control for its richness; a fine dramatic execution and a calm self-possession, and there stood the artiste by common consent. The sounds had not died away before there was an enthusiastic recognition of the tenor Mazzolini. The success of the troupe was inevitable. The tenor alone would have saved it. The reports that have reached us of Mazzolini’s great popularity with the Habanese were well founded. A tenore di robusto of the very first class, with a voice fresh, strong, flexible, under complete control, and added to all this a most clear and just conception of the dramatic beauties of the role, his reputation was made at the conclusion of his first romanza, and from that time on until the finale of the opera, Mazzolini’s efforts were greeted with hearty applause.
The Azucena of Mlle. Sulzer was a careful rendition. A mezzo soprano of good quality and power; and withal a good actress. Signor Bellini was suffering from a very severe hoarseness resulting from the change of climate, and, although he made a great effort, he did not receive the hearty commendation so lavishly bestowed upon the other artists of the evening. He might, with very good cause, have made his ‘indisposition’ a sufficient excuse for not appearing at all, for few would risk their artistic reputation under such disadvantages. Signor Bellini has great honors yet awaiting him and his success is a matter of no doubt. The opera was well given, was completely given. The arias: ‘Tu vedrai che amore’ and ‘Amor, sublime amore,’ have been usually omitted, but on this occasion, as on all future occasions we are promised it will be, the opera was given in all its original force and purity. The orchestra was large and well-balanced, and the chorus a very good one. Max as Conductor was ‘the right man in the right place,’ and it speaks volumes of a manager that he is enough of a musician to direct his own orchestra. We trust Maretzek will never yield his baton to any one. His presence in the conductor’s seat is an assurance that there will be no break, no failure.
*We wonder if our correspondent ever read Max’s book of Confessions, alias: ‘Crotchets and Quavers, or Revelations of an Opera Manager in America. By Max Maretzek.’ New York, 1855,—Ed.”
“Mr. Maretzeck [sic] commenced his season last week with the production of Verid’s ‘Trovatore.’ The choruses were not as good as we expected they would be, and the orchestra too was not what it ought to have been. But, we suppose, this will soon be mended, the materials are such, as ought to warrant, under the direction of Mr. Maretzeck [sic] very good performances. The cast he has brought from Havana, is certainly good. Signora Medori, it is true, gives us rather more tremolo effects than is absolutely necessary, even in Verdi’s music, and has moreover not that artistic control over her voice which in our times is very much desirable, but she looks well, is eminently dramatic, has a very large stage experience, and will prove in Verdi’s operas of great value. Mlle. Sulzer, the contralto of the troupe, is a correct singer, a good artist and actress. Her voice has more of the color of a mezzo-soprano than of a contralto.—The tenor, Signor Mazzoleni, made a very good impression. His voice is strong and good, but not very high. He sings, however, B flat pretty easily, but the color is dark, more baritone than tenor-like. His delivery is good, his phrasing excellent and his taste pretty unexceptionable. He is in every respect an improvement upon Signor Brignoli. The baritone, Signor Bellini, we also liked, although, on the first night of his debut, he was laboring under a very severe indisposition. He seems to be a good artist, and to posses a very fine, telling voice.”