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)

27 Mar 1863, Evening

Program Details

Maretzek Italian Opera
9th 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 Times, 25 March 1863, 7.

Announcement: New York Herald, 26 March 1863, 4.
“Medori’s immense success as the Priestess last Monday evening [has] caused a universal demand for a repetition of the opera.”
Advertisement: New York Herald, 26 March 1863, 7.

Advertisement: Courrier des États-Unis, 26 March 1863.

Announcement: New York Herald, 27 March 1863, 5.

Advertisement: New York Herald, 27 March 1863, 7.
Announcement: New-York Times, 27 March 1863, 9.
“’Norma’ will be repeated to-night.  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 to-night is the same as on Monday.”
Advertisement: New-York Times, 27 March 1863, 7.

Announcement: Courrier des États-Unis, 27 March 1863.
This evening, by general request, Norma is repeated.
Review: New York Herald, 28 March 1863, 7.

         “The announcement that Medori would appear again in Bellini’s masterpiece, ‘Norma,’ filled the Academy of Music last night to overflowing. We may safely assert that never since its opening was the opera house so crowded. The audience was most fashionable and appreciative, and from the commencement of the opera to its close the applause was really enthusiastic. We so lately noticed this opera that we refrain from any lengthened review here.

            Mme. Medori, as the Priestess, achieved as great a triumph as she did last Monday evening. She was successful beyond all praise. We feel assured that a more forcible, more admirable performance of ‘Norma’ was never witnessed in New York.

            Mlle. Sulzer, as Adelgisa, was indeed most successful. She sang admirably, while she acted the role most effectively . The applause which was so heartily bestowed upon this artist’s efforts proves how greatly she is increasing in public favor [illeg.].

            Of Signors Mazzoleni and Biachi we can but repeat our remarks of their previous performance in this opera. They were eminently successful, and were applauded by the public in the warmest manner.”

Review: New-York Times, 28 March 1863, 4.

Academy of Music.—The second performance of ‘Norma,’ last evening, attracted an overflowing audience, and was as successful in all its details as on Monday evening, when it created a furore. It is not only in the music of this opera that Mme. Medori is heard to the best advantage. It affords to that lady an opportunity of displaying the earnestness of a nature that is thoroughly dramatic, and needs only such a work to find utterance. The intensity of her action, the calmness with which she always remains superior to the situation, the dignity which was in her moments of wildest frenzy—as, in the trio finale of the third act she still preserves her authority as the chief priestess of a mystic religion, are elements that can only be fused into a perfect whole by the fire of genius, such as Mme. Medori undoubtedly possesses. Such a Norma has never been seen on the American stage, and it is not a matter of surprise that on Mme. Medori’s repetition of the character last night, it elicited all the enthusiasm of a first performance. The lady was frequently recalled.

            Signor Mazzoleni appeared to be suffering under a severe cold, but in other respects the opera was excellently rendered. We hope that it will be repeated.”

Review: Courrier des États-Unis, 31 March 1863.

     "[Illeg.] . . . to know in advance what an imposing and tragic physiognomy she would have known how to give to the character of Norma. The expectation, however, has already been surpassed; it is generally acknowledged that all the remaining memories of that role on the New York scene--even that of Mme Grisi--have been effaced by the admirable and thrilling creation of last Monday.

     It's not that, as far as perfection of singing, Mme Medori would be always at the height of certain predecessors; a purely musical critique would doubtless reveal more than one blemish and more than one weakness. But [even] the judges most inclined to severity are obliged to disarm themselves before the power of expression and the newness of execution which this great artist knows how  to attain. Breaking with the traditions which one is accustomed to believe are unchangeable, Mme Medori approaches her roles as if they had never been played before. Score and libretto, she studies each scene, every phrase in its slightest nuances; delves into its state of affairs; probes even the most fleetingly indicated meanings of the writer or the composer. From this piece of work, made at once of singer and dramatist, she draws an interpretation that is her own, that has nothing at all in common with the conventional character that one has seen again and again [to surfeit]. Acting, diction, emotion, all is transformed in her hands; and the spectator, seized, moved, dazzled, finds himself swept away in a completely new class of sensations, which he never suspected that an opera of the old repertory could make him experience.
     This distinctive characteristic of Mme Medori's talent was already revealed in Ballo; [illeg.--probably "and was thrown into high"] relief in Norma. She doesn't speak or act a single morsel of the piece according to known types; from the "Casta Diva" to the final scene, she makes something entirely new and powerfully original out of this hackneyed role. Is the innovation successful from one end to the other? Isn't it, in certain passages and certain details, tinged with some affectation? I don't know anything of that; but I know that, as a creation of a general effect, it results in an irresistible performance that captivates the audience and baffles scrutiny. The impression produced is so profound that I have seen the moment where this libretto of Norma, known by heart for so many years by half the audience, and the other half not understanding the words, was going to obtain the success of an unknown drama. I wouldn't even swear that several bashful handkerchiefs weren't secretly wiping away una furtiva lacrima, forced out by the heart-rending adieux of the high priestess."

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.”