Christine Nilsson Matinee: 2nd

Event Information

Steinway Hall

Manager / Director:
Max Strakosch

Max Maretzek

Price: $2; $3 and $4, reserved

Performance Forces:

Record Information


Last Updated:
15 May 2023

Performance Date(s) and Time(s)

01 Oct 1870, 1:00 PM

Performers and/or Works Performed

aka Lucia's mad scene
Composer(s): Donizetti
Participants:  Christine Nilsson


Advertisement: New-York Times, 20 September 1870, 7.
Article: New-York Times, 02 October 1870, 5.

“Mlle. Nilsson’s concerts, during the week, have been fully and fashionably attended; and the vast audiences have shown no lack of that enthusiasm which has previously greeted her efforts. It is, perhaps, nevertheless true that her admirers are sometimes at a loss to give reasons for the faith that is in them; or, in other words, that it has not generally been found easy to analyze the charm which she exercises over the hearts of her listeners; a charm which has led the most cultivated and exacting of European publics to award her a place altogether exceptional—one which, if shared at all, is shared only by the memory of Jenny Lind. We must look for this charm wholly in the regions of sentiment. All great singers may be said to sing, up to a given point, alike. They all necessarily possess a certain physical organization; all go through the same training; all recognize those traditions of vocalization which the sweet singers of the last century, who were singers, and nothing more, left to the schools of Italy; all study under masters who, being men of sense and of the world, try to combine in their pupils this perfect technique with the utmost attainable dramatic power, and who are now striving to complete their methods and verify their traditions by all the resources of modern scientific and anatomical discovery. But when this is duly admitted, the use which a great singer makes of her gifts and acquirements is a matter of individual temperament. Some become the lovely messengers who bring us glad tidings of peace—of a region of art fairer than the murky clouds that surround our toiling life permit us otherwise to see. They establish at once a rapport with their audience, and they flatter us by seeming to live only that we may hear their message, and go whither they would lead us. Others debase their gifts by making them the ministers of vanity. Our admiration it is that they want, not our sympathy; they take [illegible] and effort from doing a thing to make sure that we notice how well they do it; and their nervous restlessness betrays a fear that we may not be ready to appreciate all they wish to be credited for. Others, again, having given good, honest work to the acquisition of their accomplishments, show a hearty willingness to give good, honest work in their use. Without vanity on the one hand, or inspiration on the other, they fairly meet every emergency, boldly attack every difficulty, and leave us satisfied, instructed, and pleased. But there are only a few persons living in the world at the same time who are great artists, and also persons of elevated and original character. Mlle. Nilsson is apparently one of them. Great sensibility and loftiness of soul are the most obvious characteristics of her temperament, and a wonderful capacity of at once abstracting herself from the audience, and yet of letting them see, as it were, her inmost heart, seems to us the secret of the subtle charm of her singing. She appeals not to the public, but to the individual; she rouses not collective, but personal feeling. Not so noble, and bright, and cold, and self-poised as Jenny Lind, she is more tender, more dreamy, more full of a sentiment as human and not less pure. The ‘Grand Scena from Lucia di Lammermoor’ has perhaps been Mlle. Nilsson’s greatest and most characteristic effort. It is the scene which displays Scott’s most interesting heroine at the moment that mind and heart are giving way under undeserved sufferings. Playing over the notes on the piano, one wonders how it was possible that Donizetti, who himself died mad, could have written such music to such a situation. The melodies are sweet, but they are overloaded with difficulties, with intricacies, with opportunities for mere vocal display, which have accordingly made the scene a test piece for singers, and one of the terrors of the concert-room. But Mlle. Nilsson’s singing of this hackneyed production is like nothing that ever was heard before. The tears which sprang from eyes on hearing her utter the line ‘Alfin son tua, alfin sei mio,’ came from deep fountains. Mlle. Nilsson breaks no rules, shirks no difficulties, but her singing is entirely subordinated to the sentiment. She glides through all the tortuous passages, breathing them perfectly, but slightingly, as a part but not the whole of the sad discourse. Her mind and her hearer’s mind are with the broken-hearted girl, in the old house in the Lammer Muir, weaving sick fancies, and hurrying to her death. She listens to the answering instruments of the orchestra, as if she were communing with weird and melancholy thoughts. The Lucy she brings before us plays with the fiorituri of the music as Ophelia plays with the flowers she trifles with in her madness. Nothing more beautiful, nothing more touching, nothing more unaffectedly, heart-brokenly sad, have we ever before heard in a concert-room. Such a singer is worthy not only of universal applause, but of thoughtful appreciation; and that so sensitive a temperament and such rare capacities may long continue to bear [sic] the fatigues of a public life, is what all lovers of music must earnestly desire.”

Review: Dwight's Journal of Music, 22 October 1870, 332-333.
“(Correspondence of the Springfield Republican). New York, Saturday, Oct. 1. I have been to hear Nilsson and I am constrained to write to somebody about it. To hear the Nightingale who is enchanting the new world after compelling the homage of the old, was to me an event worth recording. I remember, when music was just opening some of her temple doors to me, what a grievous grief it was to my soul when I missed hearing Jenny Lind. How I hungered and thirsted after her! The divinest priestess of that holy place she has ever remained in my imagination, though I have since heard many of the world’s acknowledged great ones in musical art. The wonderful vocalism and clear elocution of Sontag are still fresh in my memory. Then the conscientious, thorough and powerful Lagrange; the thrilling and terrible Penco, who almost paralyzed the French critics with her great Italian passion; the unrivalled Titiens; the pyrotechnical Patti (Carlotta) and the marvelous little Adelina; and how I luxuriated in the large, classical, ever-satisfying sostenuto of Parepa. But all these with the hosts of other lesser lights,--the Piccolominis, the Gazzanigas, the Kelloggs, etc., were forgotten, they and their works together, at Steinway Hall, yesterday afternoon.
The newspaper accounts have been somewhat conflicting, and there has been no tumult as of yore about the ‘divine Jenny;’ nor has there been any of the enthusiasm which has prevailed when some lesser artists have appeared among us; so one can hear Nilsson unprejudiced and judge of her unbiased. Yesterday, I took my place among the large audience in a more passive state than I remember being in on any occasion of the kind. I did not expect to be astonished nor to be overwhelmingly delighted, though one could expect a great musical feast from such a combination of crowned talent.” [The writer, S., continues with her impressions for another column and a half.]