Event Information

Fourteenth-Street Theatre

Proprietor / Lessee:
Charles Wheatleigh
J. H. Snyder

Manager / Director:
D. [manager] De Vivo

Price: $1; $1.50 extra for reserved; $8 and $10 boxes

Event Type:

Record Information


Last Updated:
21 August 2023

Performance Date(s) and Time(s)

04 Jan 1871, Evening
07 Jan 1871, Matinee
07 Jan 1871, Evening

Program Details

Opening night of a brief season of Italian opera.

U. S. opera debut of Mme. Czillag.

Performers and/or Works Performed

aka Troubadour
Composer(s): Verdi
Text Author: Cammarano
Participants:  Marietta Gazzaniga (role: Azucena);  Carlo [tenor] Lefranc (role: Manrico);  Giovanni [baritone] Reyna (role: Count de Luna);  Rosa Czillag (role: Leonora)


Article: New York Post, 27 December 1870, 2.

“. . . Of the singers, most are already known to the public. Madame Rosa Csillag has not yet been heard in her proper sphere—the operatic stage. We were last week, however, fortunate enough to hear at a social gathering in a private house her interpretation of the role of Leonora in ‘Trovatore,’ and this served to convince those present that Csillag is one of the finest of living dramatic prima donnas. Of her entire success as an artiste we have not the slightest doubt. The pecuniary success of the coming enterprise will depend on the system of management adopted. Old, hackneyed operas will only serve to introduce the artists. Novelties must be offered to secure the continued attention of the public.”

Advertisement: New-York Times, 01 January 1871, 7.
Announcement: New-York Times, 01 January 1871, 4.
Announcement: New York Post, 03 January 1871, 2.
Announcement: New-York Times, 04 January 1871, 4.
Review: New York Herald, 05 January 1871, 10.

“The enterprise undertaken by an association of Italian artists, under the direction of Mr. De Vivo, to give a short season of Italian opera at this establishment received good encouragement last night in the shape of a good house and fashionable withal. The initial work was the everlasting ‘Trovatore’ with Mme. Rose Czillag, Mme. Gazzaniga, Le Franc and Reyna in the cast. The three last mentioned artists are too well known to the New York public in connection with this opera to need beyond a passing notice here. The new feature was the Hungarian prima donna, who appeared as Leonora. Her voice is not a pure soprano, but unites with a mezzo soprano quality, a command of expression, sympathetic earnestness and dramatic power such as belong only to a great artist. At the same time this voice has long since passed its meridian, and shows signs of weakness at times when such signs are not desirable. Mme. Czillag’s long experience on the operatic stage gives her an ease, dignity and power of acting which are always a source of pleasure to an auditor. Her success last evening, although we can only term it succes d’estime, leads us to anticipate a still more emphatic one in another rôle. Poor Leonora is now pretty well worn out on the operatic stage, and no prima donna can depend upon that rôle to create a furore.”

Review: New York Post, 05 January 1871, 2.
“It is difficult to imagine how opera companies managed to exist before Verdi wrote his ‘Trovatore.’ The work is now the recognized medium of introduction between operatic troupes and operatic audiences. No season is begun, no dramatic prima donna makes her first essay before a strange public, without bringing forward the ever favorite ‘Trovatore.’ Fortunately it is a delightful opera, offering to four principal singers unusual opportunities of display; so that it is quite as popular with artists as with audience.
Madame Czillag at the French Theatre last night, in making her debut before an American audience, gave a broadly dramatic interpretation of the part of Leonora, singing and acting with feeling and taste, and showing the experience of one who has on the European stage secured a reputation equal to the first. She is a lyric prima donna of the best school, and has a voice capable of expressing all the emotions which it is the delight of modern operatic composers to depict. The atmosphere of the theatre was very cold last night, and the lady was subject at times to hoarseness, so that her singing was not as uniform as might be wished; but the inauspicious surroundings did not interfere with the marked intelligence which characterizes the lyric efforts of this accomplished and celebrated artist.
Madame Czillag was admirably supported. Lefranc, the Manrico of the evening, sang with immense power and energy, and aroused his listeners to the highest pitch of enthusiastic delight. Madame Gazzaniga as Azucena sang with all the taste and ability of an experienced artist, and Reyna, the baritone, was quite satisfactory. Of the chorus and scenery there is but little to be said in way of praise. The French Theatre is not a fitting home for Italian opera; yet there is every reason to believe that the present brief season will offer some enjoyable musical treats.”
Review: New-York Times, 05 January 1871, 4.
“So many New-York seasons of Italian opera have begun with ‘Il Trovatore,’ to come speedily to an untimely end, that there was something ominous in its selection to open a fresh season last night. There is, too, a well-founded suspicion in the public mind that the announcement of operas ‘easy to do,’ argues poverty of resources, and suggests doubts about the future that do not help to commence a season with the desirable briskness and éclat. To this of course it may be said, and is said, that the opportunities afforded by Verdi’s threadbare work for the principal singers, and the ready familiarity of choristers and musicians, afford reasons for setting out with it which are supported by weighty prudential considerations. We can honestly say that last night’s performance was its own ample justification. Take it for all in all, we have rarely heard Il Trovatore’ better sung. Mr. De Vivo has made a very respectable beginning for his season. He has shown that he deserves encouragement, and we hope he may receive it. The cast of the opera included in the principal parts Mmes. Rosa Czillag, and Gazzaniga, and Signori Lefranc and Reyna.
Mme. Rosa Czillag has been a uniformly fine artist, and is now an artist occasionally fine. As a lyric actress her powers cannot be challenged. She has force, meaning, and intensity. Her heart is clearly in her vocation, and her intelligence analyzes and describes with facile breadth the rather exacting demands of Leonora. We might take some exception to her execution at times, and also to some of her ornaments. These, however, are but minor blemishes. Leonora is a great dramatic character, and it is a gratifying and unusual thing to find a prima donna who can sing, act and look it at all satisfactorily. Mme. Czillag does something more than this. She not only avails in her impersonation of all the acquired advantages derived from experience, but also develops in it an inspiration that sometimes fairly strikes out enthusiasm. The lady was heartily applauded on this occasion, and, especially in the last act, produced the impression, in which we heartily concur, that she is the best Leonora seen here in a long time.
Of Signor Lefranc we have often with equal pleasure and sincerity recorded an exalted opinion. The sweetness and volume of his voice, and the incautious prodigality with which uses it, the freedom and scope of his dramatic method, and their occasional lack of training or of wise direction, we have praised and commented upon without stint. Both the merits and defects of Signor Lefranc were last night quite conspicuous. The merits, be it said, were in splendid excess over the defects, yet the latter were not, at intervals, unapparent. He will persist in forcing his beautiful voice upon superfluous occasions, and thus, besides the immediate injury thus inflicted, in impairing his best efforts when they should be at their climax. Signor Lefranc is, notwithstanding, a noble singer, if not a finished vocalist, and if his organ holds out, and his life is also spared, will achieve world-wide renown. His ‘Di Quella Pira’ was immensely successful, and won tumultuous recognition.
Mme. Gazzaniga sang and acted capitally in Azucena. Her voice was in excellent order and her histrionic instincts were at their highest for spontaneous and impassioned delivery. Signor Reyna was better as the Count de Luna than we have seen him before, and certainly eclipsed his attempts in the part at the Academy. Perhaps the smaller house is better suited to his voice. At all events he seldom sang out of tune last night, and was often heartily applauded. Mr. De Vivo has been at signal and obvious pains to deserve success, and whether he achieves it or not, the music-loving public have cause to be grateful to him. The French Theatre, which in many respects is well adapted to opera, reminded us last evening of the palmy days of Mr. Bateman. It was bright and gay, much better filled than we expected to see it, and highly appreciative. The orchestra was well selected, and more judiciously balanced than of late has been usual, the chorus sufficient in number, and better than tolerable in performance, and the remaining accessories superior, at any rate, to those which in the same opera we have last seen.”
Review: New-York Daily Tribune, 05 January 1871, 8.

“The opening of the experimental season of Italian opera at the Fourteenth-st. Theater was witnessed last night by a pretty large and gayly-dressed audience in which the musical and dramatic professions seemed to be largely represented, and to many of those present the performance gave unabounded satisfaction. The cast was peculiar in one respect, namely, that the four principal artists—Czillag, Gazzaniga, Le Franc, and Reyna—all sang more or less out of tune; but at least one of the quartet is a popular favorite to whom we are ready to pardon many things in consideration of powers and accomplishments that we all respect. Mr. Le Franc has made Manrico one of his best parts, and no other comment upon his performance is necessary, after we have said that he introduced the high C into his Di quella pira with the usual [illegible] effect, that he repeated it upon demand, and that in the third act he was somewhat uncertain in consequence of that over-exertion. Still the business that tired his voice was broken at intervals all through the evening by those fine outbursts for which he has become so famous. The greater part of the applause and all the enthusiasm fell to him. The interest of the critics, however, was directed to to Madame Czillag, who was confidently expected to reverse on the stage the unfavorable impression she had created in the concert room. ‘Trovatore’ is an opera not very well adapted to test her abilities as a vocalist, for almost any almost any soprano with a voice can produce a good effect in it; that it helps the dramatic method for which she has a repute. Dramatically she is certainly very [illegible]. Her style is broad and powerful, and she has an excellent conception of the more passionate portions of the music. She sang also much better than she did at the Philharmonic Concert. For all that we cannot record for her a distinct success. Her voice is badly worn, her intonations are often false, she has lost power over the higher notes, and acquired the habit of [illegible] for effect to certain coarse and [illegible] in the lower register, which, however, [illegible] in phrases of an intense declamatory [illegible], are inaudible and unpleasant as she uses [illegible]. Before the end of the evening there was a marked decrease in her power, and for the [illegible] high notes she became entirely [illegible]. The orchestra, under the boisterous Signor Nicolao, was [illegible] bad, and threatened on at least [illegible] to bring everything to ‘[illegible] ruin.’ The chorus won no laurels, and the scenery was arranged [illegible] manner characteristic of an [illegible].”

Review: New York Sun, 06 January 1871, 2.

“It is very pleasant to hear again the vocal and ever-beautiful Italian tongue, even it if is in so worn and trite an opera as the ‘Trovatore.’ There are some admirable artists in the present combination, prominent among them being Lefranc, Reyna, and Mesdames Czillag and Gazzaniga. The ‘Trovatore’ was excellently given on Wednesday evening, and will be repeated to-night in the matinee tomorrow. The artists engaged deserve encouragement in their independent venture.”

Review: New York Herald, 07 January 1871, 4.

“The second night of the opera season at this house was not so well attended as on the first performance. The opera was the same, ‘Trovatore.’ Mme. Czillag, the Leonora, sang better than on the occasion of her debût, but not even the fire and earnestness of her acting can hide the fact that her voice is worn to an extent detrimental to a satisfactory rendering of such a rôle. A mezzo soprano voice cannot in its wave be forced up to the high pitch of a soprano, especially in Verdi’s music, without losing much of its power and clearness. We never heard Le Franc’s magnificent voice to better advantage. It is a remarkable organ, this voice. Nature has endowed it with a brilliancy, clear, round tone and sympathetic quality, which we rarely hear on the stage nowadays; but it is a treacherous voice, and deceives its possessor and the public at the most unexpected time. Last night Le Franc was in magnificent voice, and we have not heard for a long time such a superb rendition of the rôle of Manrico. Still we question the policy of the management placing on the bills, ‘Signor Le Franc will on this occasion introduce his celebrated high C.” It is too much like the time in a circus bill, ‘Mr. Wienaminsky will introduce the celebrated trick pony.’ Mme. Gazzaniga is a fine Acuzena, second only to Adelaide Phillips in this country, and Signor Reina is a blatant voiced De Luna. The chorus was of the usual execrable standard, and Signor Nicolai had considerable work with his orchestra.”

Review: New York Post, 07 January 1871, 2.

“The second performance of ‘Trovatore’ at the French Theatre, last night, was another brilliant success for Lefranc, who, with the high C and the general vigor of his singing aroused his audience to an unusual pitch of enthusiasm. Madame Czillag gave an unusually dramatic rendering of the music of Leonora, and Madame Gazzaniga proved to be an excellent Azucena. Of the other features of the opera there is little to be said in the way of praise.”

Review: New-York Times, 07 January 1871, 4.

“‘Il Trovatore’ was repeated at the Fourteenth-street Theatre last evening, in presence of an audience quite as enthusiastic as that which witnessed the first performance of that opera by Signors Lefranc and Reyna and Mmes. Czillag and Gazzaniga, on Wednesday. All the artists were in good voice, and the spirit which characterized the earlier representation animated them once more. Recalls at the close of the second and third acts, and after the singing of the ‘Miserere,’ and a stormy demand for a repetition of ‘Di quella pira,’ in which Signor Lefranc twice attained to the high C with the accustomed result, were the points of the entertainment worth notice as indicating its impressiveness.”

Review: New York Clipper, 14 January 1871, 326.

“A season of Italian opera was inaugurated at the Fourteenth Street Theatre, on Jan. 4th, by an association of artistes, under the direction of M. de Vivo, when Mme. Rose Csillag, a European prima donna, made her American debut, as Leonora, in ‘Il Trovatore.’ The success of this, to us, new candidate for operatic honors was not very marked. She is a careful singer and experienced actress, but has passed the rubicon of whatever fame she may have attained in her profession and her voice lacks force and clearness, as her acting lacks the enthusiastic vein of youthful genius. Madame Gazzaniga as Azucena was very good, and the Manrico of Sig. Lefranc was excellent, frequent applause greeting his efforts. Sig. Reyna was also very good as the Count de Luna. The same opera was sung on the 6th, and ‘Un Ballo in Maschera’ is to be produced this week. One thing we would suggest to managers , viz., that if claquers are an absolute necessity of operatic performances they should attend rehearsal, and learn when to applaud, so that they may not mar some of the finest musical passages by their ill-timed and meaningless noise, as they did on Wednesday evening.”