Academy of Music
Manager / Director:
29 August 2018
“Academy of Music.—Another fashionable and crowded house greeted Mr. Maretzek last evening, when Verdi’s ‘Ballo in Maschera’ was performed. The work is a favorite with our public, and has been so ever since its production, invariably attracting the best audiences of the season. Considering that we have not always heard it under the most favorable of circumstances, this popularity augers well for Mr. Maretzek, whose company gave it last night in a way that, in many respects, has never been equaled. The distribution included nearly all the leading artists of the troupe, with the exception of Signor Bellini, who is still too much under the weather to sustain his rôle. An able and zealous substitute was found in Signor Ypolito [sic], who sang the aria in the first act with much energy, and in the fourth with artistic feeling, but lacked dramatic force for the situation of the third act. It would be difficult to say whom the honors of the evening were due. Both Mad. Medori and Signor Mazzolini were in such superb voice that the house had barely recovered from one outburst of enthusiasm before it was plunged into a fresh one by one or other of these artists. The fine school of Mad. Medori, her large voice, and ample command of dramatic intensity and expression, are all superbly displayed in the effective rôle of Amelia, more particularly in the latter half of the opera where the tribulation [sic]of the heroine commence and end. It was apparent that this lady has yet another career before her. Her artistic resources are of the amplest kind, and although her voice is afflicted with a tremolo which indicates excessive use, it is yet commanding in power and admirable in quality. As an actress, too, she is thoroughly good. We have no hesitation in saying, and without qualification, that the third and fourth acts have never been so well rendered in this City.
There is little to be said of Signor Mazzolini[sic]. Praise expresses itself in very few words. He was simply immense, leaving in his part all other tenors so far in the distance that they are not to be thought of. The barcarolle and air of the third act were rendered with a degree of vivacity and easy derision that can only be referred to in terms of unlimited praise, while the serious portions of the rôle reflected the same thoroughly dramatic feeling for sense as well as sound. The character of the Count is, indeed, so different in Signor Mazzolini’s [sic] hands that he can hardly be regarded as an acquaintance of the oldest habitué of the Academy of Music. A finer performance is not often vouchsafed to the best operatic establishments of Europe.
A debutante, Mme. Ortolani Brignoli, made her début as Oscar, the page, and without displaying any great powers, satisfied the audience. The lady was so visibly agitated by the occasion, that we shall await patiently a more favorable opportunity to judge of her ability.The performance in all respects was one of the best we have had since Mr. Maretzek left the chair which he now happily reoccupies. It was heartily applauded, and undoubtedly gave satisfaction to an audience that could hardly be larger or more choice.”
“The Academy was graced, last night, with an overflowing and brilliant audience, to hear the opera of Il Ballo in Maschera [sic], performed by the newly-arrived company, under the direction of M. Maretzek. We had occasion to remark on their previous and initial appearance, that allowance must be made for the vocal artists, just from ship-board, and in a new climate and before a strange audience. Last night it was evident that the company proceeded individually and collectively better than on the first evening. To those already heard was added Mlle. Brignoli (no relation to the American tenor of the same name): a light soprano who performed the part of the Page to the satisfaction of the audience, and secured the laurel of an encore in an aria. There is one more artist yet to be heard; the bass, who will appear on Wednesday.—The chief soprano Madame Medori last night was steadier in her execution and intonated more correctly than on the first evening of her performance here. Her very large volume of tone is adequate to the size of the Academy. ‘London,’ says the old saw, ‘is the death of small reputations.’ The Academy of Music is the death of small voices. For effect, every thing must be doubled over an ordinarily-sized opera-house. An orchestra of fifty should be enlarged to a hundred: a chorus ought to be two hundred to bring the necessary volume from out the circle of the canvas into the immense, far-reaching capacities of the auditorium. The tenor, Signor Mazzoleni, produced a very great impression on the hearers by his manly notes: a vivid encore followed his aria—a most distinct compliment—and the best an artist can ask. The heavy part of Ulrica was assigned to the contralto, Mlle Sulzer. It has no dramatic merit—less even if possible than the average of situations of the opera—whose scene is Boston, Mass.—time, that of Franklin’s grandfather—manners, those of Louis the Fourteenth’s Court—a preternatural jumble lovely to contemplate.
In the ball scene, Mlle. Galetti [sic] and Signor Ronzani appeared as dancers, and kept up, so far as two dancers could, something like the spirit of a ball scene.
The performance last night was a success, and promises well for future essays by the same artists.”
“It would be difficult to see a performance more beautiful and more complete than the one that was given Monday night at the Academy of Music. The Ballo in Maschera has never been played in this way in New York. The spirit of the artists, the careful design of the scenery, and the reintroduction of certain truncated parts, all contributed to make a new opera of a work that was believed stale. M. Mazzoleni and Mme. Medori had equal parts in this brilliant triumph; Mme Sulzer, Mme Ortolani-Brignoli, who made her debut, M. Ypolito, who had to do some improvising in the baritone role, also valiantly exerted themselves and contributed to creating an ensemble of the first order. More of similar evenings and Maretzek's company will rank among the most beautiful memories attached to Italian opera in New York.”
“Last night we heard the new singers in Il Ballo in Maschera [sic], and found that Mr. Maretzek has brought together a better company than we have heard here for some time. Medori, the prima donna, possesses a rich and powerful soprano of extensive compass; she is a fine executant, and an impassioned actress. Sulzer, the contralto, although pleasing, scarcely possesses force enough to give effect to such monotonous music as that which belongs to the part of Ulrica. Mme. Brignoli made an agreeable page. Mazzolini [sic], the new tenor, is a great acquisition; his voice is beautiful, powerful, and he well understands how to use it. His pronunciation is distinct and elegant, his presence noble, his acting full of energy and fire. His fine singing and acting were enthusiastically received. Bellini, the new baritone, we did not hear last night, on account of indisposition; his part (Renato) was tolerably well filled by Signor Ippolito.” Signed [with musical notes].
“Last night Verdi’s Un Ballo in Maschera was given ‘in an unmutilated form,’ as Max announces it. The night was fine, the audience magnificent. Such a patronage is an earnest of the good will of the public that cannot be aught but gratifying to a manager. The cast of ‘Un Ballo’ was as follows: Amelia, Mme. Medori; Oscar, Mlle. Ortalani Brignoli, the debutante of the evening and wife of the tenor Mazzolini; Ulrica, Mlle. Sulzer; Richard, Mazzolini [sic]; Reinhart, Ippolito (Bellini still unable to sing); and Colletti and Muller, the conspirators. Medori, Mazzolini and Sulzer won a reptutation of the honors of their first appearance, Mazzolini especially creating a perfect furore in the second act. His baracole was encored and justly deserved it. Mlle. Ortalani Brignoli made but a fair Oscar. She lacks that naiveté so essential to the rôle. She possesses a fresh voice of no very great power, and, under the excitement consequent upon her debut, did not show it to the best advantage. The music of the role of Oscar requires more vivacity and sprightliness than Mlle. Brignoli throws into it. The mise en scene of the opera was very fine. Never has ‘Un Ballo’ been placed on the stage here in so admirable a manner. In the grand duet scene in the last act two stage bands, one of brass and one of string instruments, participated, in addition to the orchestra; and the ballet, so often a ridiculous farce at the Academy, was worthy of the name. Mlle Gallitti [sic] and Mon. Ronzani were the principals.”
“ . . . . Three new operas were launched last week: the Ballo in Maschera, Ernani and the Traviata; two were rendered in a remarkable manner; but there was primarily in Ballo a superiority of interpretation that made for a fortunate musical occurrence. In the hands of Medori and Mazzoleni, Verdi’s work took on a completely new aspect and awakened an interest that had not been found up to now. The two artists that I have just named thus have arrived in a trice at a degree of favor that borders on ecstasy, without having, however, that ephemeral exaggeration of deceptive popularity or [being] overrated by publicity.
It’s rare good luck—rare above all in New York in these past years—to encounter some robust voices that pay ready money [give you your money’s worth], without haggling, and double the ear’s pleasure through dramatic illusion. The reservations that a meticulous critic could make as to Mme Medori’s voice disappear before the largeness of her singing and the irresistible power of her acting. She’s a lyric tragedienne in the highest sense of the term, and if there are here and there some blemishes to notice in her singing, they have to do with the style of her ability. M. Mazzoleni possesses qualities altogether analogous and of an order no less remarkable. He is less complete, nevertheless, than his partner, in that he doesn’t push the flexibility of his organ and the delicacy of its nuances as far as she does. Whereas Mme Medori always shines with a steady brightness, he sometimes leaves something to be desired in pieces with elegance or feeling. I also have to put him on guard against a tendency to force his voice which carries him at times towards dubious or disagreeable intonations.
This failing is a common excess for almost the whole company and springs from, one can say, habits contracted on the Havana stage, which demands constant effort on the part of the singers. It will be easy henceforth to overcome it and to return to a more natural pitch.
The baritone, M. Bellini, is always unwell, which doesn’t keep him from revealing to us a natural, sure, supple and well-handled voice. The same praises apply to the basso, M. Biachi, whose debut didn’t have any other cloud except the troublesome tendency which I’m going to talk about immediately. Both of them are furthermore excellent actors, warm, with good bearing, gifted with a deep scenic feeling, and formed in the best traditions. M. Biachi doesn’t transgress these except on one point, which doesn’t in truth have anything to do with the question of talent: he replaces, with a thinness pushed to excess, the opulent corpulence that appeared until now to be one of the essential endowments of the post of basso.
One understands without effort the powerful results such a quartet of artists attains and the stirring evenings the New York audience is bound to have from them.
Mlle Sulzer, for her part, brings to this ensemble a graceful talent, full of elegance and charm. Her voice is a mezzo-soprano rather than a contralto and lacks a bit of depth; but its timbre is full and congenial, and the young singer guides it with consummate art. Without having the right to the same praise, Mme Ortolani-Brignoli made a fortunate enough debut in la Traviata.”