Academy of Music
Manager / Director:
1 March 2019
“Mr. Maretzek announces a new production this week. It will be brought out on Wednesday and is the ‘Judith’ of Maestro Peri. The subject is a biblical one, and has been treated in a masterly manner by the composer, who, although comparatively unknown here, enjoyed a good European reputation.”
“The opera of ‘Judith,’ from the pen of a young but gifted composer, Achille Peri, was written at the breaking out of the Italian war in 1859. The story of Judith and Holofernes was taken as being typical of the expected deliverance of Italy from the bonds of her oppressors, and the text of the opera everywhere expresses the longings of a down-trodden people for freedom.
The great success which attended the production of ‘Judith’ at every prominent theatre between Naples and Milan did not arise wholly from the political bearings of the opera, since the vigor and originality of the music added largely to its popularity. The work is recognized in Europe as a standard composition, and as such is now presented for the first time in this country.”
Brief history and discussion of the opera, including its plot and details surrounding the original performance. “Maretzek, in producing ‘Judith,’ is carrying out the promise made at the commencement of the season as regards novelties. We say this because Peri’s beautiful opera is almost unknown here. . .
Madame Medori was grand as the Jewess, and roused the audience to enthusiastic applause by her admirable rendering of the aria at the close of the first act. Her acting and singing throughout the whole of the opera were worthy of all praise. The role of Judith is one in which Madame Medori will achieve as great triumphs as she has in Norma and Lady Macbeth.
Mazzoleni was also very successful in this opera. He sang a grand aria in the first act, which was greatly applauded. In the last act, he sang a romanza with much feeling and expression, and here, as in fact throughout, he was very successful.
Bellini looked the role of Holofernes, and sang it also extremely well. He was in good voice. The bacchanalian song in the last act, which he rendered with great spirit, will become, no doubt, most popular.
Biachi and Mlle. Sulzer have secondary roles in ‘Judith,’ but they make much of them, and thus contribute to the great success of the performance.
Among the concerted pieces which attract attention in this opera may be cited the second finale, which is well written, and proves that the composer possesses undoubted merit. The mise en scene, the choruses and orchestra were all that could have been desired by the most critical, and the performance was certainly most satisfactory. We hope that Maretzek will soon reproduce ‘Judith.’ There was a large and fashionable audience at the Academy last evening.”
COMMENT: Role of Judith was premiered by Vera Lorini.
“So gratifying was the success of ‘Judith’ last night at the Academy of Music, that Mr. Maretzek will no doubt repeat this new biblical opera before the close of the season. The chief interest of the piece attaches of course to the heroic Hebrew maiden, who, with devoted fortitude, risked her life in the pious task of saving her country, destroying its foe, and putting to flight the beleaguering host which threatened to devastate the holy city and bind its people fast in the chains of heathen slavery.
Seldom have the admirers of Mme. Medori seen her versatility of nature, depth of passion, and full, thrilling sweetness of vocalization so felicitously displayed as in her rendering of the numerous fine morceaux in the first and second acts. Mazzoleni sang with unusual freshness and fire, while Biachi and Bellini admirably sustained their subordinate though difficult rôles.
The chorus was less successful than its recent performances had entitled us to expect, but the orchestra, as usual, did extremely well. The mise en scene was very fine, and the frequent and prolonged applause with which the opera was received indicates that, notwithstanding its political significance is to us less attractive, ‘Judith’ may perhaps become almost as great a favorite here as at its first production in Italy, three years ago.”
“Maestro Peri’s opera of ‘Judith’—produced here last evening by Mr. Maretzek—was a complete success. It has points of broad excellence that are calculated to please the multitude, and smaller ones which will satisfy the more exigeant taste of the profession. One of its greatest recommendations is that it introduces all the admirable artists of Mr. Maretzek’s troupe. There are opportunities for Mme. Medori, for Mlle. Sulzer, for Signor Mazzoleni, for Signor Bellini, and for Signor Biachi—a quintette which can hardly be excelled—which they used to the best advantage. To this circumstance, and the excellence of the music and mise en scene, may be ascribed the very complete success of the work. It will be repeated, we presume, on an early day, and we shall then take the opportunity of dwelling more fully on its merits.”
"The evening was . . . brilliant and . . . positive at Irving Place. Judith produced an excellent impression in both score and interpretation. The general character of the music is a mixture of force and melody that often leads to happy inspirations. We cite among others a delightful aria in the first act and the finale of the third. This will be a progressive success, as far as we are able to judge. The artists deserve to be applauded in chorus, and the management too, which has gone to considerable expense."
"The last evening that I passed at the theater was—if I remember correctly—the second performance of Judith. Marshal Forey occupied the seat almost neighboring mine and appeared to enjoy immensely the pleasure of being a simple spectator like anyone else. Today, who recalls Judith or Marshal Forey? The first has had time to pass an entire “season” in Philadelphia; the second should be back in France for at least two weeks by now. Oh well! Everything I could have talked about is pretty nearly at that level of freshness.
Judith, nevertheless, should have deserved better than the demi-success that it obtained and the speedy oblivion into which it has fallen. There is, in the score, something of a biblical breath, a certain power of inspiration, and that has some hardly ordinary effects. In spite of these qualities, it didn’t succeed in any way. If the subject weren’t so old, I would search for the causes of this thankless destiny, shared by more than one outstanding work, and I would venture a theory at which one has turned up one’s nose too much up to now: the influence of the libretto upon the fate of an opera. But that will be for another occasion, for fear that they’ll tell me: “counsel, let’s pass on to the Flood” [quote from Racine].