Maretzek Italian Opera: Norma

Event Information

Academy of Music

Manager / Director:
Max Maretzek

Max Maretzek

Event Type:

Record Information


Last Updated:
29 August 2018

Performance Date(s) and Time(s)

23 Mar 1863, Evening

Program Details

7th night

Performers and/or Works Performed

Composer(s): Bellini
Text Author: Romani
Participants:  Maretzek Italian Opera Company;  Giuseppina Medori (role: Norma );  Henrietta Sulzer (role: Adalgisa);  Francesco Mazzoleni (role: Pollione);  Hannibal Biachi (role: Oroveso);  T. [tenor] Rubio (role: Flavio );  Johanna Ficher (role: Clotilde )


Advertisement: New York Herald, 22 March 1863, 7.
Advertisement: New-York Times, 22 March 1863, 7.
Advertisement: New York Herald, 23 March 1863, 7.
Announcement: New-York Times, 23 March 1863, 5.
“Medori has recovered from her throat complaint, and Signor Mazzolini is reported to be in excellent voice. . . . Sulzer [is] a most correct and admirable artiste.”
Advertisement: New-York Times, 23 March 1863, 7.
Announcement: New York Post, 23 March 1863.
“The opera will to-night again enjoy the services of Medori and Mazzoleni, who have recovered and will sing with Sulzer and Biachi in ‘Norma’.”
Announcement: New-York Times, 23 March 1863.
Announcement: Courrier des √Čtats-Unis, 23 March 1863, 1.
Review: New-York Times, 24 March 1863, 4.

Academy of Music.—The long promised performance of ‘Norma,’ with Mme. Medori as the heroine, took place last evening, and attracted the best house of the season. The lady, although exhibiting on her entrance the traces of recent indisposition, had evidently reserved herself for the task, and during the representation appeared to grander advantage than she has yet had the opportunity of doing. Her interpretation of the opening recitative was replete with dramatic effect, and Casta Diva, although attended with mechanical difficulties for so large a voice, was finely rendered—the cabaletta creating a perfect fuore and an enthusiastic recal [sic]. In the duo scene with Adalgisa and the finale to the act she was equal to Grisi, and both in singing and acting elicited tumultuous applause.

            Signor Mazzolini, still complaining, was heard to advantage, in his opening aria, and in the finale to the act. Mme. Sulzer was an excellent Adalgisa, and contributed in a large degree to the success of the second act, insuring for the Deh on te one of the best demonstrations of the evening.

            In the third act both Medori and Mazzolini succeeded in sustaining the enthusiasm that had marked the previous portions of the work. The curtain fell on one fo the most successful representations of the season.”

Review: New York Post, 24 March 1863, 2.

“The Opera.—A lady once asked Bellini, at Paris, which of his operas he thought approached the nearest to perfection. The modesty of the latter stood in the way of an answer. The lady still persisting said: ‘If you were on the sea with all your scores, and on the point of suffering in a wreck—’ ‘Ah!’ exclaimed the composer, without letting her finish, ‘I would let all go to save ‘Norma.’’ And tenderly this showed the golden thread which bound the heart of Bellini to this beautiful production and his consciousness of having evolved it, through improved harmony, rich instrumentation and elevated style, from the highest point of his musical inspiration.

            In passing, last evening from the music of Verdi to that of Bellini, the Maretzek troupe showed its great versatility and power of adaptation. The passage was that from the disturbing bluster of winter to the soothing calm of summer—from the violent strain of the muscles to the gentle tension of the nerves. In effecting such a miracle we are justified in assigning them a high place in the vocal Pantheon.

            Not alone in form or mechanical outline, but in memorable spirit did they give the charming opera of ‘Norma.’ Through their splendid vocalization the musical soul of Bellini appealed overpoweringly to a large enthusiastic and brilliant audience. His tearful melodies, as if drawn from the broken urn of his heart, received fresh life and artistic unction from the vocal power that interpreted them.

            The ‘Norma’ last night was, indeed, the most brilliantly successful performance of the season, Medori, in this, her greatest part, eclipsing, in the opinion of our best informed opera-goers, all predecessors here excepting Grisi. Her amplitude of voice, style and person seemed well to befit the character of the jealous, revengeful priestess. In her rendering of the part there is very little tenderness, but a great deal of fire, passion, scorn and rage; and it is much the same with the vocalization, which, if not marked by any usual facility of execution, is massive in power and in perfect keeping with Medori’s idea of the part.

            In such a performance as the Norma of Medori it is difficult to individualize particular points—yet we are inclined to think that her remarkable interpration of In mia mano al fin tu sei—was one of the most noticeable features of the evening. Every shade of emotion expressed by the singer, and though to do this, some liberties were taken with the music and its time, yet these liberties were allowable. Another due point was the acting of Medori when about to strike Pollio with the dagger—the sudden shiver, and the recoiling motion of the body.

            Medori was finely supported by Mazzoleni and Sulzer, who gave their parts of Pollio and Adalgisa with admirable effect. The performance was altogether, all that had been expected of it, and the enthusiasm of the large audience was a practical demand for its early repetition.”

Review: New-York Daily Tribune, 24 March 1863, 8.

     “The opera of Norma drew a very fine audience last night to the Academy. The Soprano Mme Medori, and the Tenor M. Mazzoleni, again appeared after their several indispositions. The part of Norma demands in about equal proportions agility of voice and power of declamation. In the latter quality Mme Medori is preëminent: in the former she is not. But Norma in a rage is the best of that pagan lady: and so the declamation weighs in the scale accordingly. We may especially instance her in the trio at the end of the first act. In the Prayer-Scene she showed judicious economy of means: keeping down the voice to the devout standard. Mlle Sulger [sic] made a good Adalgisa,—less the power to reach the highest notes. In her opening scene her voice, being a second Soprano, appeared to particular advantage, as the range of the music is low. The part of the Pollione is that of a sneak and ruffian; and the worst possible exponent of a Roman Proconsul, who would at least behave differently if not more decently. Tenors shirk the part accordingly: and though it contains some admirable music, the man has nothing to do after his first air and duet, but to stand up and be bullied by the irate chief Druidess. But M. Mazzoleni made as much of the character as could be expected. Signor Biachi was a capital Oroveso in the first scene, which would have been impressive had there been a chorus of sufficient propotions.

             The applause was good considering the habitual coldness of Academy audiences. The principal artists were called before the curtain to receive the homage of their admirers.”

Review: Courrier des √Čtats-Unis, 25 March 1863, 1.
“The Monday performance was one that made history. It would be impossible to see a Norma more magnificent and more moving than Mme Medori. . . . [S]he eclipsed all memories of this role . . . and created a new character that one did not know till now. An ovation, such as we have not seen for a long time, saluted this splendid creation. Mlle Sulzer, M. Mazzoleni, and M. Biachi, although they are overshadowed by the predominance of the figure of Norma, are entitled to their part in their success.”
Review: New York Herald, 26 March 1863, 4.
Medori was an “immense success as the Priestess last Monday evening.”
Review: New-York Times, 26 March 1863, 5.
“Mme. Medori achieved the greatest triumph of the season, winning for the opera of ‘Norma’ a new vitality. The performance was so excellent throughout, that it has been universally pronounced to be the best ever given in America—a statement which probably exceeds the requirements of truth, but indicates clearly the supreme excellence of the occasion that brought it forth.”
Review: New-York Times, 27 March 1863, 9.

Part of announcement for repeat performance on 03/27/63.

“This work obtained on Monday last the most pronounced success of the season. So thoroughly excellent was the performance that the ordinary lethargy of the audience was completely dispelled, and a demonstration occurred, such as is seldom witnessed in our Academy. The distribution tonight is the saem as on Monday last.”

Announcement: Dwight's Journal of Music, 28 March 1863, 410.
Review: Musical Review and World, 28 March 1863, 75.
Medori as ‘Norma’ as well as Signor Mazzeleni as ‘Polione’ made a very good impression, not less Signor Biachi as Oroveso, in fact, the whole performance was very acceptable.”
Review: Dwight's Journal of Music, 04 April 1863, 8.

New York, March 30.—The representation of Bellini’s ‘Norma’ on last Monday night, was very successful, so much so as to warrant its repetition on Friday. The length of time during which this opera has held a prominent position on the lyric stage (more than thirty years, a long period for most modern operas!) is not to be wondered at, when we consider tts [sic] real wealth of melody, and its great dramatic effects. In spite of frequent repetition, the Druid choruses, the scene following Norma’s entrance, the trio at the close of the first act, the fine declamatory passages, and torrents of angry fioriture scattered through the music allotted to Norma, still strike us as remarkable, poetic, and in a certain measure, truthful. This opera requires good actors as well as singers; fortunately, Mr. Maretzek’s company tolerably well answers these requisitions.

            Medori looked the Druid princess finely; her attiudes were nobly picturesque, her acting frequently rose to a degree of impassioned intensity, as genuine as rare. Her singing was more than satisfactory, although it is to be regretted that she makes such a constant (and, we fear, involuntary) use of the tremolo, which would be effective in so rich and powerful a voice as hers, were it only heard occasionally. Mazzolini made a great deal of the part of Pollione; but so fine an artist can make much of very little. Sulzer was correct, but weak, as Adalgisa; Bianchi [sic] pretty good as Oroveso, if not quite up to our childish recollections of Lablache’s colossal voice and majestic port and action. The choruses and orchestra were well sustained.”

Review: Dwight's Journal of Music, 18 April 1863, 15.

Part of larger article on the Maretzek season.

            “New York, April 7.—The Academy has never, within my recollection, presented such a series of brilliant assemblages as during the past month of the Maretzek troupe performances... 

            The great hit of the season has been Norma. Medori has in the Druid priestess a grand rôle, and she is eminently qualified to interpret it. Norma has had three performances, and to such houses! ‘Standing room only’ is a very brief but indicative sentence, and one very rarely required at the opera, but it was brought out from its dusty resting place and hung upon the ‘outer wall’ of the Academy three successive nights—and what for? Norma, that well-known, well-thumbed, well-whistled, well-ground opera, with its melodies and gems sung threadbare, brought that dusty placard into service again. The performance was certainly well worth the commendation it received at the hands of the public and the press. Medori was magnificent. All the adjectives of the English language were brought into service, and as to Mazzoleni, words were not found indicative enough. The Adalgisa of Sulzer, and the Oroves [sic] of Biachi were in harmony with the success of the other rôles, and Norma flourished with undiminished splendor for three nights.”