Maretzek Italian Opera: Lucrezia Borgia

Event Information

Academy of Music

Manager / Director:
Max Maretzek

Jaime Nuno

Event Type:

Record Information


Last Updated:
29 August 2018

Performance Date(s) and Time(s)

02 Nov 1863, 8:00 PM

Program Details

Opening Night of Second Subscription Series. 13th Subscription Night.

Performers and/or Works Performed

Participants:  Maretzek Italian Opera Company;  Hannibal Biachi (role: Duke Alfonso);  Francesco Ippolito (role: Petrucci);  Giuseppe Tamaro (role: Liveretto);  Wilhelm [Maretzek Italian Opera] Müller (role: Astolfo);  Guglielmo Lotti (role: Vitellozzo);  J. Reichardt [Maretzek Italian Opera] (role: Ruspighello);  Domenico Coletti (role: Gubetta);  Fernando [bass-baritone] Bellini (role: Gazella);  Giuseppina Medori (role: Lucrezia);  Henrietta Sulzer (role: Mafflo Orsini);  Francesco Mazzoleni (role: Gennaro)
aka Lucretia Borgia
Composer(s): Donizetti
Text Author: Romani


Announcement: New-York Times, 28 October 1863, 7.

“In the course of the approaching subscription series of twelve nights, besides other operas of the regular repertoire, the grand tragic opera Lucrezia Borgia will be revived in brilliant style, and with a cast of unexampled efficiency, including in the principal roles the names of Madame Medori, Mlle. Sulzer, Signor Mazzoleni, and Signor Biachi, and in the important secondary parts those of Signor Bellini, Signor Lotti, Signor Tamaro, Signor Yppolito and Signor Colletti, who have kindly consented to appear on the occasion for the purpose of adding to the artistic ensemble of this favorite opera. That master work, Don Giovanni, is also to be brought out with a like powerful distribution of talent. The new biblical opera, Judith, is ready for immediate representation; and Gounod’s Faust is in active preparation and will be produced next month. Subscribers are notified that their present seats will be retained for them from this day until Friday evening, Oct. 30. If not reengaged by that time for the Second Subscription Series of Operas, these seats will be placed at the disposal of the first new applicants.”

Announcement: New York Post, 29 October 1863, 2.

“To-morrow evening ‘Ione’ will be given, and will close Mr. Maretzek’s first series of twelve operatic entertainments. This experiment has been so complete a success, and the opera is now so thoroughly appreciated, that there is no doubt the new subscription, which is now open and commences on Monday, will be well patronized. ‘Lucrezia Borgia,’ which is announced for the opening night, will be speedily followed by ‘Don Giovanni,’ ‘Judith,’ ‘Faust,’ and other novelties.”

Advertisement: New York Herald, 30 October 1863, 1.

Advertisement: New-York Times, 30 October 1863, 7.

“13th Subscription Night with an unprecedented great cast.”

Advertisement: New-York Times, 31 October 1863, 9.

“Thirteenth subscription night.”

Advertisement: New-Yorker Staats-Zeitung und Herold, 01 November 1863.

Announcement: New York Post, 02 November 1863, 2.

“Mr. Maretzek opens his second subscription season of Italian opera at the Academy this evening, producing ‘Lucrezia Borgia,’ with Medori as Lucrezia, Sulzer as Maffio Orsini and Mazzoleni as Gennaro – a cast which insures a faithful interpretation of Donizetti’s music. The great success which attended the first season of twelve nights proves that our people intend to give the opera a living support and Maretzek is doing his best to justify the patronage bestowed upon him.”

Announcement: New-York Times, 02 November 1863, 8.

“The Fall season may be said to merge into the Winter season to-night, when Mr. Maretzek commences his second subscription.  It is—so far as Italian opera is concerned—the last until next year. The public has been so well satisfied with the past twelve nights, that the manager does not find it necessary to stimulate interest by new and elaborate promises. The company remain the same. ‘Judith,’ a Biblical opera, will be produced, and, perhaps, ‘Faust.’ The standard repertoire of the Academy will be illustrated by the members of Mr. Maretzek’s excellent company; and, in some of the operas, new combinations will be effected of rare and peculiar interest. This is the case to-night in ‘Lucrezia Borgia,’ which will be cast to the entire strength of the company. Several of Mr. Maretzek’s principal artists take part in the finale to the first act—an instance of condescension which only our popular impresario can extort from the company. Mme Medori is the Lucrezia. The role is one of that lady’s greatest dramatic efforts.”

Announcement: Courrier des États-Unis, 02 November 1863.

       "The series of twelve performances, which made up the first subscription opened by Maretzeck [sic], ended in a most triumphant fashion. The new season which opens today, for an equal number of soirees, is going to be inaugurated under no less glorious auspices. It begins with Lucrezia Borgia, which doesn't need to have been seen [previously] in order to be announced as one of Mme Medori's finest roles. With a view toward producing the most complete effect, the piece has been mounted with a very special cast in the secondary roles. None of them is sacrificed, and the directors have consented to make sure the auxiliary characters are at the same level of excellence as the ensemble. The performance will then be equal in all its parts, and one must count on seeing this revival of one of our audience's favorite operas perhaps eclipse the most brilliant successes of the fall." 

Review: New York Post, 03 November 1863, 2.

“Among the elaborate and magnificent but unequal operatic productions that have immortalized the name of Donizetti, scarcely one can be found which in lyric beauty and tragic power, in majestic dignity and tender, passionate melody, in rapid movement and thrilling inspiration, can claim precedence over the popular favorite ‘Lucrezia Borgia,’ which was rendered with such effect last night at the Academy of Music.

The house was larger than at any preceding soirée, and the frequent encores, the breathless silence, the enthusiastic appreciation, with which the principal morceaux were received, offer at once a flattering tribute to the merit of the artists, and a significant indication of the refined culture and discriminating taste of the audience.

To Medori, Sulzer, Mazzoleni and Biachi were allotted the principal roles, while in the secondary roles Lotti, Tamaro, Bellini, Yppolito and Coletti conferred a power and beauty in grateful contrast to the conventional insipidity of treatment which, though it is so often adopted, has been happily set aside by Mr. Maretzek.

The performance of the chorus and orchestra was very fine. The costumes, with one or two notable exceptions, exhibited exquisite taste, and the entertainment, on the whole, was so signal a success that we are glad to find the opera is to be repeated on Wednesday.”

Review: New-York Times, 03 November 1863, 4.

“Last evening was a busy one at the theatres, an anxious one for the critics, and a festive one for the public at large. Why Monday should be selected by all the managers of our places of amusement for the production of their novelties surpasses our power of comprehension. In Europe there is a very good reason for providing special attractions for that day. The poorer classes are then a little flush, and it is with them a sort of surreptitious holiday. But here everyone can afford to go to the play on all nights of the week if they are so disposed, and a novelty never fails to draw a good house whether it be produced on the first or the last day of the week. Managers, if they remembered this, might easily take an evening to themselves. Whatever one of the six it happened to be, the public would quickly recognize it as the novelty night at their particular establishment, and the manager would receive that undivided attention from the Press which he cannot now expect. As it is, an important entertainment must frequently be dismissed with a paragraph – and that not always of the most exact character.

The musical and dramatic casualties last night were: 1. The commencement of M. Maretzek’s second season at the Academy of Music, and performance of ‘Lucrezia Borgia,’ with remarkable ensembles; 2. The revival of Shakespeare’s ‘Coriolanus,’ on a grand scale at Niblo’s Garden; 3. The opening night of the Florence at the Winter Garden; 4. The production of a new ghost piece at Barnum’s Museum.

1. Donizetti – If Mr. Pepper could bring him from the grave for a single night, which, fortunately, he cannot—would be astonished to find how the Borgia family has increased under the fond and paternal care of Mr. Maretzek. The dramatis persona has in fact doubled since the composer’s day. Instead of four principal singers there are now eight, and with the queerest names! It is easy enough to explain the cause of the increase.  Mr. Maretzek required the services of first-class artists in what were really nothing but chorus parts. To distinguish them from the common herd and place them before the public, it was necessary to give them names. Mr. Maretzek has done it, and Donizetti, we repeat, would be astonished if he could take a census of the opera. 

The immediate effect is certainly gratifying. It demonstrates, in a felicitous manner, the enormous difference in the caliber of voices. The half-dozen artists who consented to take part in the finale to the first act of the opera, last night, were, of course, in point of numbers, a contemptible minority, yet they seemed to submerge and utterly silence the ordinarily vociferous gentlemen in their rear who constituted the majority.  The effect was superb, and seemed to electrify the audience. Will the day ever come when an entire chorus can be found of such voice? Is it desirable, in view of the fragile nature of the human tympanum, to wish for it? 

The merits of Mr. Maretzek’s revival did not end with this choral demonstration. The caste [sic] was otherwise excellent. Mme. Medori, in the rôle of the heroine was superb, acting and singing with an impassioned earnestness that could hardly be excelled. Signor Mazzoleni was in fine voice, and contributed his manly style and intelligent action to the occasion. He was much applauded. Signor Biachi, as the Duke, was equally good; and Mlle. Sulzer, as the Orsini, added to the completeness of the cast.  The opera was a marked success, and was so recorded by one of the largest and most fashionable audience of the season. It will be repeated on Wednesday.”

Review: New-Yorker Staats-Zeitung und Herold, 03 November 1863, 8.

Very well attended.  The leading and supporting roles were well cast and very well performed.  The performance was perfect in every detail.  Even the chorus numbers – though not the highlight of the show – were very effective.  The audience was enthusiastic and bestowed on the artists overwhelming applause, flowers and repeated da capos, the last mentioned not necessarily to the liking of the singers.

Review: New York Herald, 03 November 1863, 3.

“The announcement that Donizetti’s chef d’oeuvre, ‘Lucrezia Borgia,’ would be given at the Academy of Music with a cast including almost the entire strength of the Maretzek troupe, proved irresistibly attractive to the public. An immense audience filled the opera house from parquet to dome. It was certainly the most brilliant and fashionable assemblage of the season.

     Lucrezia Borgia is beyond doubt the most sparkling and melodious among the many beautiful operas composed by the maestro Donizetti. From the first note to the last this work is full of attractive melodies. The principal roles - four in number - were admirably rendered last night by Mme. Medori as Lucrezia, Mlle. Sulzer as Orsini, Mazzoleni as Gennaro, and Biachi as the Duke Alfonso. The secondary parts in this opera are generally sung by chorus singers or inferior artists. Last night Lotti, Tamaro, Bellini, Yppilito and Coletti undertook those roles, and of course the performance was all the more satisfactory. In the introduction and in the first finale the ensemble was admirable. The public were vastly pleased by the whole performance, which was a very great success. We are pleased to announce the repetition of this opera for Wednesday.

     In the first act the aria sung by Lucrezia (Mme. Medori), ‘O Come E Bello,’ was much applauded. It was rendered with great power and effect. The duo between Lucrezia and Gennaro (Mazzoleni) was also exceedingly well sung and received hearty applause.

     Mazzoleni sang the cantilena, ‘Di Pescatore Ignobile,’ with great success. Excited by the unusual warmth of the public, he sang this morceau with exquisite feeling and expression.

     In the second act Biachi (Duke Alfonso) sang the aria with great power and effect. Throughout the opera he was very successful, and received a well merited share of the applause bestowed with unusual liberality upon the efforts of all the artists. The celebrated trio in this act, between the Duchess, the Duke and Gennaro, was encored amid storms of applause. It was admirably sung.

     In the third act Mlle. Sulzer was encored when she sang the ‘Brindisi.’ The last scene of this act, between Lucrezia and Gennaro (Mme. Medori and Mazzoleni), was extremely well sung and acted. Throughout the opera both these artists displayed to the greatest advantage their rare dramatic talent, and both have added to the great reputation they had already achieved.

     ‘Lucrezia’ is undoubtedly the great success of the season as yet.”

Review: Courrier des États-Unis, 09 November 1863.

    "Lucrezia Borgia has come to add a magnificent jewel to Mme Medori’s crown. The physiognomy that she has given to this role would suffice to place her in the rank of the premiere lyric tragediennes of the time, even if she hadn’t other rights to this title. Personified by her, the dreadful duchess isn’t the woman of unbridled violence, the complete termagant to whom we have become accustomed, any more. Mme Medori has understood, with her instinct of a true artist, that a princess can be a poisoner and adulteress, without proclaiming her crimes in each of her glances and gestures. That profoundly correct observation has led her to create an entirely new character, in which Lucrezia remains, in the midst of her secret conspiracies, the great lady dominated in spite of everything by the demands of her position and who never lets her mask drop except in private or when the situation carries her away. There’s an outstanding attainment there, an advanced creation with infinite art and powerful character. Sung in a kind of muffled  and contained half-voice, so as to emerge from that shadow with a double magnificence in the great catastrophes of the drama, the Lucrezia of Mme Medori is indisputably one of the most beautiful things that I’ve seen in the theater. It’s fruitless to describe the effect she produced.

     It is troublesome that M. Biachi should have believed that his duty was to take precisely the opposite tack of his partner and to make of the Duke of Ferrara a low-born brute. This role played against the grain spoiled the second act a bit, or at least spoiled it the first evening. M. Biachi is too intelligent an artist to not see that he took the wrong path and not to bring his character back into line with that of Mme Medori. Mazzoleni has set an example for him, by the manner in which he has fashioned, acted and sung his Gennaro. This new excursion outside of his normal repertoire has been even more successful than the one he had made at the beginning of the season, thanks to the feeling that he has displayed. The Edgardo in Lucia also furnished him the occasion for a handsome success shared by Bellini and by Mme Ortolani-Brignoli, who decidedly wins out by being heard.


Review: Dwight's Journal of Music, 14 November 1863, 136.

 “At the Academy the opera deserves the first mention. With great effort, Maratzek has succeeded in overcoming the prejudice and disfavor aroused by the unfortunate, but unavoidable disappointments and substitutions of the beginning of the season, and his promises are now faithfully performed. The audience has been very large and fashionable, and the performances of the troupe very praiseworthy and satisfactory. ‘Macbeth’, ‘Trovatore’, ‘Ione’, ‘Lucretia’ [sic], ‘Martha’, ‘Lucia’ and ‘Norma’ have been presented during the interval of my letters, and ‘Judith’, Maestro Peri’s great work, is to be produced on Wednesday evening. The most successful performance of the week was ‘Lucretia’[sic]. The whole company was distributed in the cast, and the performance was so gratifying, that a repetition of the opera was demanded and given on the succeeding opera night. The season will shortly end, and then Anschutz will appear with his German company.”