Ballo in maschera

Event Information

Fourteenth-Street Theatre

Proprietor / Lessee:
Charles Wheatleigh
J. H. Snyder

Manager / Director:
D. [manager] De Vivo

Giuseppe Nicolao [cond.]

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

Event Type:

Record Information


Last Updated:
28 August 2023

Performance Date(s) and Time(s)

10 Jan 1871, Evening

Performers and/or Works Performed

aka A Masked ball; Masked ball
Composer(s): Verdi
Text Author: Somma
Participants:  Rosa Cooke [soprano] (role: Oscar);  A. [bass] Bacelli (role: Sam);  Carlo [tenor] Lefranc (role: Ricardo);  Giovanni [baritone] Reyna (role: Renato);  Carolina Viardi-Marti (role: Amelia);  [tenor] Locatelli (role: Tom);  Frida de Gebele (role: Ulrica)


Advertisement: New-York Times, 08 January 1871, 7.
Announcement: New York Post, 09 January 1871, 2.
Announcement: New York Post, 10 January 1871, 2.

Carolina Viardi will substitute for Rosa Czillag in the role of Amelia.

Announcement: New York Sun, 10 January 1871, 1.

On the appearance of Carolina Viardi.

Announcement: New-York Daily Tribune, 10 January 1871, 5.

Indisposition of Mme. Czillag; role of Amelia to be sung by Mme. Viardi Marti.

Review: New York Herald, 11 January 1871, 10.

“Last night was wrecked another of those ill-starred craft that are periodically launched on the stormy sea of Italian opera, without a pilot or one on board capable of navigating them, with an incompetent and mutinous crew, and leaking from the very moment they touch the financial waters. Such rash, ill-advised enterprises deserve the fate they invariably meet. Italian opera is the highest form of the lyric drama, and nowhere in the world, we confidently assert, is it better appreciated than in this city. The New York public crave for it, and are willing to support it if only the people who pretend to the name of impresarii will give anything that deserves the name of Italian opera. Such an affair as that which closed last night (the third) is calculated only to bring discredit on the name of Italian opera and discourage real responsible managers who may attempt it. It was similar to the fiasco of Mora and Draper some years ago at the same theatre. Last night Verdi’s opera was given with the following cast:—Ricardo, Lefranc; Renato, Reyna; Oscar, Mlle. Boselli; Amelia, Mme. Viardi Marti; Ulrica, Mme. De Gebele; Sam, Bacelli; Tom, Locatelli. Mme. Czillag’s illness was the cause, likely, of the announcement on the bill, ‘Last night of the opera,’ as she is one of the principal managers. The selection of ‘Un ballo’ was an unfortunate one. We have not seen the opera properly placed on the stage in this city within the last six years. At Covent Garden as a spectacle alone it is worth seeing. The masked ball there on the stage would be worthy a Liederkranz or Arion bal masqué at our Academy. Here a half dozen choristers put on ragged dominos and decayed scenery represents the ball room. Again last night Lefranc did not know his rôle, and it was absolutely painful to witness the struggles of the prompter to help him through. Even if he was perfect in the part as far as rehearsal is concerned it is not suitable for his voice. The want of a thorough musical education is partially concealed in bustling rôles like those of Manrico, the tenor part in ‘Tell’ and Poliuto, where there is much action and less complicated music than there is in ‘Un Ballo in Maschera.’ Lefranc has a voice of rare power, expression and sweetness, and in rôles familiar to him, he is inimitable. But Ricardo is a sealed book as far as he is concerned. Reyna’s hard metallic baritone grates discordantly on the ear and never more than when he sang the beautiful aria ‘E sei tu che macchiavi quell’anima,’ in which he inveighs against the treachery of the governor. Mme. Viardi Marti’s voice is good and well schooled, but possesses little color or expression. She has but a limited idea of acting and less of a proper impersonation of the rôle of Amelia, as far as appearance and dress are concerned. Mme. De Gebele’s thin, weak contralto voice failed to give even an intelligent idea of the music of the astrologer, and that part might as well have been omitted for all the effect it made in her hands. Miss Rosa Cooke was an exception to the general incompetency of the cast, and she sang and acted the rôle of the page, Oscar, in a very commendable manner. This young lady has made considerable progress in her profession, and when her voice acquires more strength and familiarity with the operatic stage she will be a valuable auxiliary to any Italian Opera Company. As for the chorus and orchestra, they were beneath criticism. It is a shame that in the metropolis of America such an exhibition should be placed before an intelligent public under the name of Italian opera. We want opera sadly, but no such arrangement as the above.”

Review: New York Post, 11 January 1871, 2.
“Perhaps the less that is said about the third and final representation of Italian Opera at the French Theatre last evening the better. The only member of the company that was really heard to advantage was the propter. The chorus, however, produced the most decided effect in drowning the voices of the conspirators in the ‘Ballo in Maschera,’ and in walking about the stage in the festive scene of the last act like so many undertakers in waiting for the funeral of the tenor, the unhappy governor of Boston (Le Franc). Miss Rosa Cooke, who sought to veil herself under the stage name of Roselli, was the favorite of the evening, and sang Saper Vorreste with spirit. It would be ungracious to speak of the shortcomings of the prima donna called upon at short notice to appear in place of Czillag. On the whole, though some honest and earnest efforts have been made to achieve success, there are obvious reasons why this last effort at Italian opera has come to so sudden an end. We cannot help recalling as apropos to it brief career the epitaph on the child of an hour:
‘Here I lie, so quickly done for,
I wonder what I was begun for.’” 
Review: New-York Times, 11 January 1871, 5.

“‘Un Ballo in Maschera’ was sung last evening at the Fourteenth-street Theatre by Signori Lefranc and Reyna, and Mmes. Viardi, Rosetti and De Gebele. The performance was a very satisfactory one. Signor Lefranc’s rendering of Ricardo has been a frequent theme of comment in these columns. His singing and acting throughout the opera are deserving of the highest praise. His delivery of the opening aria, commencing ‘La rivedra nell’ estasi,’ is broad and fluent; his execution of the light couplets, ‘E scherzo ed follia’ is as full of delicacy as though his voice were the most slender of tenors, and his interpretation of the impassioned parts of the third act is as vehement as the texture of the music and the violence of the situation allow. The familiar and best appreciated point of his performance, last evening, had ample attention and approval. Signor Reyna sung well, and acted with unusual earnestness and power in the highly dramatic rôle assigned to him. Mme. Viardi is a prima donna of the French school, who uses to the best advantage a rather worn and tremulous soprano, and who portrays the character she takes with an intelligence and an animation which Italian artists have not accustomed us to. Mme. Viardi was especially fortunate in the finale of the third act, and in the aria—very rarely given, by the way—in the fourth. Oscar was represented by Mlle. Rosetti, whom we have heard on the English stage, as Miss Cook. Mlle. Rosetti has a fresh contralto, and a fair knowledge of singing. Her first appearance in opera was successful, and especially so in respect of promise of future utility. Mme. De Gebele has often been Ulrica at the Academy. The whole rendering, we may repeat, afforded great enjoyment. We are sorry, therefore, to hear that with it the present season came to at least a temporary close.”

Announcement: New-York Daily Tribune, 11 January 1871, 5.

“Italian opera collapsed suddenly last night at the Fourteenth-st. Theater, after a performance of ‘Il Ballo in Maschera,’ which, having been arranged ex improviso, is hardly a fair subject for severe criticism. Our chief duty at present is to record the failure of this attempt to make an opera company without material and without preparation. The season has consisted of three evenings and one matinée, and there has been little opportunity for praise at any of these representations. Last night a new prima donna, Mme. Viardi Marti, made her first appearance—taking the role of Amelia in place of Mme. Czillag. She has a voice of fair quality, but imperfect culture and uncertain intonation, and we cannot say that she made a very distinct impression of any kind. The most successful impersonation of the evening was that of Oscar, the Page, by Miss Rosa Cooke, who disguised herself for this occasion under the stage name Roselli. In the first act she suffered from nervousness, but later in the evening she did very nicely, and her Saper vorreste was encored. Le Franc was in pretty good voice; Reyna was even worse than usual; Mme. De Gebele was the sorceress, Ulrica, and Signor Nicolao, and the propter between them, made more noise than all the rest of the company. In the breaking up of the enterprise we have at least the comfort of knowing that these two gentlemen will, for a season, be quiet.”

Review: New York Sun, 12 January 1871, 2.
“The Muses are having a hard time of it. They find it difficult to keep a roof over their heads, those of them at least who take a fostering interest in the lyric drama. The Italians have of old been friends of the immortal nine, and, true to their traditional friendship, they combined together and hired the Fourteenth Street Theatre, and warmed it and lighted it, and invited thither the immortals and all that held them in esteem.
But, alas for the degeneracy of the times! There were few to enter, and the votive offerings were scant. The experiment was tried for three evenings, of which Tuesday evening was the last, and at the head of the programme for that occasion appeared the ominous, though not unexpected words, ‘Last night of the Italian Opera.’
It was the occasion, too, of the debut of Madame Carolina Viardi, announced as ‘the celebrated prima donna from San Carlo and La Scala.’ Her reign was a short one, and is suggestive of the epitaph on the tombstone of the baby who lived but one day:
‘Since I so very soon was done for,
I wonder what I was begun for.’
Of course it would be absurd to offer criticism on an Italian opera which has gone to the shades. We can only profer [sic] our sympathies to the artists that they succeeded no better, and pity the poor homeless Muses who find the lights turned out and the fires dying down in their temple, and have to turn out again into the cold streets.
The good Italians did what they could, but the fates were against them. Let them be philosophers, and in the spirit of true philosophy say with the old poet of the race from which they descended, Plaudite, amici, comedia finita est.
Article: New-York Times, 12 January 1871, 4.
“Italian opera in New-York has again proved a failure. The season begun last week at the theatre in Fourteenth-street has come to an end with the fourth performance. A sliding scale of disaster seems of late to attend our lyric stage, so that with a couple of trials more we may expect that an Italian opera season will begin and end on the same night. Such an arrangement would be attended with the minimum of loss, and could hardly be more mortifying than the fiascos recently witnessed.
The public would hardly be interested in hearing the causes of this last operatic misfortune. It is merely a repetition of the old story, with much credit due for good intentions. So expensive an amusement cannot be had without money, and some funds must be expended, just as water is poured into an unwilling pump, before the public in its present frame of mind will come up to the needful mark. In a word, there are but two ways in which a successful season of Italian opera can be even anticipated. One is for a bold and energetic capitalist to take the matter in hand, and the other for a number of wealthy persons to club together for the same purpose. We mean no disrespect to the last operatic manager, who has certainly done his best, when we say that it is totally impossible with a ‘scratch’ company, and an insufficient bank account, any longer to command attention in New-York for Italian opera.
If New-York desires this elegant, but costly pleasure, New-York must pay for it. We must all admit that it is rather derogatory to so rich and splendid a City that even a small Italian opera-house is not sustained here. At the same time, it is only justice to our public to say that these repeated failures simply show that there is no demand for the article dealers have offered to supply. It is not that there is no love of musical art, but that the methods of illustration fail to satisfy the general taste. To put the matter more plainly, opera has been so very badly done here that lovers of opera are disgusted, and, unless for a furtive peep on a first night, they resolutely stay away from the houses where it is announced. The New-York audience that has witnessed the glories of Malibran and Grisi, Alboni and Frezzolini, of Mario and Salvi, of Badiali and Marini, cannot be satisfied with performances which, so far as they are associated with musical taste, are signs of decadence, rather than of progress. When that which is worth hearing is once more offered on our lyric stage, the community will liberally respond; but to attain such necessary attraction, money must be freely used in one of the ways we have suggested, Meanwhile, no opera is better than bad opera, and until the time has arrived for better things we hope to be spared any further essays of the make-shift order, which reflect credit neither upon the Metropolis nor upon the speculators concerned.”
There is a letter to the editor in response to this article, 01/13/71, p. 2, signed “Crispino,” identifying the stockholders at the Academy of Music as the source of the problem. 
Article: New York Clipper, 21 January 1871, 334.

“We think the location of the theatre contributed largely to the failure of this season. Not within our recollection has a single enterprise been carried through here with pecuniary success. Experienced managers who have been accustomed to succeed elsewhere, have here, notwithstanding the exercise of energy and fact [tact?], ever met with failure.”