Play With Music
17 July 2014
“Vestvali – cheerful announcement for ‘young New York,’ which adores her – is coming back. She has been engaged by Mr. Henry D. Palmer to appear in a season of English drama at Niblo’s, beginning on the 27th of September. Her first introduction in this new phase will be in the part of Gemma [sic], in the play of ‘The Jewish Mother.’ During this engagement Vestvali will also appear in the character of Captain Lagarders, in ‘The Duke’s Motto,’ so that the public will have an opportunity of comparing her representation of the difficult and wearing part of the disguised hunchback with that which Mr. Wheatley made so popular until the hard nature of the task compelled him to relinquish it.”
The play has been translated from Mocquard’s French into English by Matilda Heron. Mr. Robert Stoepel has composed the incidental music, which is comprised of three songs by Vestvali and a chorus. These songs will also be used in Romeo and Juliet, Ray Gomer (sp?), and The Duke’s Motto at the end of the season.
“When an artist so perfect in her profession as Mademoiselle Vestvali assumes a new character and speaks in another language, the most critical audience prepares itself for charitable constructions, and is purposely blind of one eye, refusing to express disappointment under any provocation. This amiable feeling. . . pervaded the enormous throng who flocked together at Niblo’s last evening to witness Vestvali’s first essay in English drama. . . It so happened, however, that there was no call whatever for the display of these charitable emotions. With the skill of a practised [sic] artist Vestvali seized the whole spirit of her part, while her English was excellent…
While, however, the lady achieved a signal success, we are sorry to be compelled to add that the play in which she appeared is unworthy of her great powers.”
A long review. “Mlle. Vestvali’s threat of playing in the English language was fulfilled on Tuesday last, and the English language got decidedly the worst of it. A piece called ‘Gamea, or the Jewish Mother,’ was produced for the occasion. Before passing to the ungrateful task of speaking of the debutante, we take much pleasure in stating that the management did all that was possible for play and players. The scenery and costumes were excellent, and the minor characters were generally well sustained. The force of bad example, however, was too much for two ladies whose melo-dramatic lines were cast with the heroine. Both Mrs. Crattan and Mrs. Brougham-Robertson overdid their parts, and made them absurd. The only feature of the entertainment which can be dwelt on with pleasure was the musical one. Music allies itself easily with literary ‘bosh,’ and the most beautiful melodies are frequently wedded to the most execrable words. Mr. Robert Stoepel has written some really charming music to ‘Gamea.’ We have neither time, space nor inclination to deal tenderly with a work of absolute mediocrity. What we have to say will be confined mainly to the principal figure in the farce. We should be glad to speak in terms of commendation of Mlle. Vestvali’s performance of the Jewish Mother if it were possible, but it is not. Her style in opera, even when toned down with orchestra and chorus, is apt to be a little too loud and demonstrative for ordinary tastes; on the dramatic stage it exceeds the bounds of belief. . . . Her elocution is destitute of the first perception of poetry; her passion is the noisy “rampage” of a small nature chafed into abnormal activity . . . [H]er movements, being for the most part artificial, are preeminently ungraceful; and her English!—well, it is evidently the last thing she has thought of acquiring.”
“The house was crowded, not a single seat being obtainable, and scarcely standing room. A large portion of those present were evidently of the Hebrew faith, and from them came much of the applause during the evening. . . . [Vestvali’s] singing was excellent, as in this she was perfectly at home; but her faulty representation was in other respects too apparent.”