Grau Italian Opera: La favorite

Event Information

Niblo's Garden

Emanuele Muzio

Price: $.50 family circle; $1 parquet, parquet circle, balcony and boxes; $1.50 reserved seats

Event Type:

Record Information


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Last Updated:
12 March 2018

Performance Date(s) and Time(s)

11 Nov 1863, Evening

Program Details

Opening night.

American debut for Sophie Vera Lorini

“Mr. Grau’s new opera company will begin its short season on Wednesday evening. . . . Two nights only will be given in this city (Wednesday and Saturday) and one in Brooklyn.” AN: NYP 11/09/1863, p.2.

Performers and/or Works Performed

aka La favorita; The Favoured One
Composer(s): Donizetti
Text Author: Royer, Vaëz
Participants:  Grau Havana Opera Company;  Annetti Stefani (role: Fernando);  Filippo Morelli (role: Alfonso);  Sophie Vera Lorini (role: Leonora);  Johanna Ficher (role: Inez);  Nicolo Barili (role: Balthazar)


Article: New York Post, 05 October 1863, 2.

“A third opera company is talked of. Mr. Grau announces the engagement of Mlle. Lorini in Naples, and he has also entered into a contract with Mlle. Castri; the latter being a young lady of eighteen years, who is reported to be a very remarkable Sonnambula. With the triple attractions of Maretzek, Anschütz and Grau, in addition to the Philharmonics of New York and Brooklyn, Mr. Dempster’s concerts, Gottschalk’s coming soirées, &c. &c., the New York and Brooklyn communities will have a surfeit of music during the fall and winter months.”

Announcement: New-York Daily Tribune, 05 October 1863, 5.

mr. grau’s company.

            Mr. Grau is clearly of opinion that there is enough left of the Union to support two opera companies, and is in Europe making negotiations accordingly. We are officially informed that ‘he has engaged Mdlle. Sophia Vera Lorini, a great tragic prima donna from the San Carlo of Naples, and succeeded in effecting this through the breaking up of the theatres of Palermo and Naples, Victor Emanuel having declined to continue the subventions heretofore granted by the King of Naples to this opera house. A very short while after the contract was signed, Mdlle. Vera received offers from Mr. Bagier, of the Italian opera, Paris, but too late to accept them. She will arrive here in a very short time. She sings Trovatore, Ernani, Lucrezia, &c., and is engaged for four years. Mr. Grau has also engaged, for the same period, Mdlle. Castri, soprano, Sfogato, a young lady 18 years of age, very pretty, and also very remarkable in Sonnambula, Rigoletto, Puritani, and Lucia.’”

Announcement: New-York Times, 23 October 1863, 7.

“Mr. Grau has the honor to announce that after having concluded all his engagements for the ensuing season he will return on the 25th of October, and will open his regular season of opera and concerts on or about the 10th of November.  For all particulars see future advertisements.”

Advertisement: New-York Times, 27 October 1863, 7.

“Mr. Grau has the honor to announce that after having concluded all his engagements for the ensuing season he will return on the 25th of October, and will open his regular season of opera and concerts on or about the 10th of November.  For all particulars see future advertisements.”

Advertisement: New York Herald, 06 November 1863, 1.

Advertisement: New-York Times, 06 November 1863, 7.

First appearance in America, of the celebrated Lyric Tragedienne, Madame Sophie Vera Lorini, from the principal opera houses in Europe, where she has achieved the distinction of being one of the great dramatic singers of the age. 

Mr. Grau has the pleasure to announce that he has made such arrangements with Mr. Wheatley as will enable him to give

Two Nights of Italian Opera

with his new company, positively their

only appearance in New-York

for the present . . . Mr. Grau has also the pleasure of announcing the engagement of Mlle. Pauline Castria and Mlle. Morensi.”

Announcement: New York Post, 07 November 1863, 2.

Announcement: New-York Daily Tribune, 07 November 1863, 2.

Advertisement: Courrier des États-Unis, 07 November 1863.

“First performance of Lorini in America. . . . Mr. Grau is pleased to announce that he and Mr. Wheatly have agreed to give two soirées of Italian opera. . . . They will be his company’s only performances.”  After advertising the cast for La favorita, Maretzek announces the hiring of Mlle. Pauline Castria and Mlle Morensi.”

Announcement: Courrier des États-Unis, 07 November 1863.

Castria is a soprano leggiero and Morensi a contralto “whose beautiful voice has left great memories from last season. . . . These three performances [one in Brooklyn, the other on 11/13] will be the only ones by Grau’s company.  Everybody is thus encouraged to see, listen, and judge them.”

Announcement: New York Post, 09 November 1863, 2.

“Mr. Grau’s new opera company will begin its short season on Wednesday evening at Niblo’s. Two nights only will be given in this city (Wednesday and Saturday) and one in Brooklyn; the first performance being ‘Favorita.’ The promise of a good support of Mr. Grau’s enterprise is encouraging, and although the present attractions of Maretzek’s company and the prospective charms of Anschutz’s season of German opera would in ordinary times suffice to stay the musical appetite of our people, there is evidently a strong disposition to improve all the opportunities that offer. Mr. Grau’s artists are excellent and will get a hearty welcome.”

Announcement: New-York Times, 09 November 1863, 5.

“Mr. Grau will give two performances of Italian opera this week at Niblo’s Garden, and one representation at the Brooklyn Academy of Music. The opera on all these occasions will be the same – ‘La Favorita.’ Mme. Vera Lorini, Mr. Grau’s dramatic prima donna, sustains the rôle of Leonora. It was one of the stipulations in her contract that she should make her début in New-York, and in this particular work; hence Mr. Grau’s immediate raid. It was found impossible, owing to the jealousy of artists, to give Mr. Grau the off nights at the Academy of Music. The singing birds who are so warmly nested there do not relish the idea of being pecked out of their places by a bevy of new comers [sic]. Perhaps it was as well that it turned out so. The public will thoroughly appreciate Mr. Grau’s motive in giving two operatic evenings at Niblo’s, and discriminate between that necessary act and a useless and vexatious opposition. We are persuaded that Niblo’s Garden will be crowded to its greatest capacity on Wednesday next. The interest of a début is one attraction, and Mr. Grau’s popularity with the best opera audiences of the Metropolis is another. Signor Stefani, a tenor who was here two or three years ago, and is said to have greatly improved, makes his rentree as Fernando, and Signor Morelli also renews his acquaintance with our audience as Alfonso.”

Announcement: New-York Daily Tribune, 09 November 1863, 5.

Advertisement: New-Yorker Staats-Zeitung und Herold, 09 November 1863, 6.

Announcement: New York Herald, 10 November 1863, 5.

Announcement: Courrier des États-Unis, 10 November 1863.

Announcement: New York Herald, 11 November 1863, 6.

Announcement: New York Post, 11 November 1863, 2.

“The rival opera companies will measure their strength this evening; the Maretzek troupe producing ‘Judith’ for the first time this season at the Academy, and Mr. Grau’s artists making their bow to the public at Niblo’s Theatre in ‘Favorita.’ The latter is the more popular opera of the two, and curiosity will be piqued to hear the new prima donna, Madame Vera Lorini—who is not to be confounded with Madame Virginia Lorini, the leading Maretzek singer in Brooklyn for tomorrow evening. The Grau cast for to-night is as follows: Leonora, Madame Lorini; Fernando, Stefani; Alfonso, Morelli; It is erroneously announced in one of the morning papers that ‘Favorita’ will be repeated at Niblo’s on Saturday evening. That evening is reserved for the debut of Mlle. Castri, when ‘Lucia di Lammermoor’ will be produced. The enterprise of Mr. Grau is worthy of a liberal support, hazardous as it is for him to undertake competition with a company so excellent as that of Maretzek.”

Announcement: New-York Daily Tribune, 11 November 1863.

“This evening Mr. Grau will inaugurate his brief season of two nights at this house, and introduce his new company of artists to an American audience, foremost among whom is the lyric tragedienne, Mdlle. Sophie, Vera Lorini, who makes her American debut in Donizetti’s opera of ‘La Favorita’ as ‘Leonora,’ which is expressly stipulated for in her contract, as she conceives it to be one of her greatest roles, as it is one in which she has achieved the highest honors from the operatic public of Europe. She will be ably supported by Stefani as ‘Fernando,’ Signor Morelli as ‘Alfonso,’ and Signor Barili as ‘Balthasar,’ the orchestra being under the conduct of Signor Muzio. Much curiosity is manifested in musical circles to hear this new aspirant for the tragic lyric mantle which Madames Stolz and Grisi once so gracefully wore.”

Advertisement: New-Yorker Staats-Zeitung und Herold, 11 November 1863, 6.

Madame Sophie Vera Lorini is given higher billing in the ad than the opera being performed.

Review: New York Herald, 12 November 1863, 4.

“A large audience assembled at Niblo’s Garden last evening to witness the representation by Mr. Grau’s artists of Donizetti’s chef d'oeuvre, ‘La Favorita.’ Upon this occasion Mme. Vera Lorini was to make her first appearance in America, and much curiosity was expressed to hear this artiste. The tenor and baritone of Mr. Grau’s troupe – Signors Stefani and Morelli – have sung here before, and are of course well known to the public.

Mr. Grau’s object in giving opera was not to commence a regular season, but to present to a New York audience the prima donna he has just engaged. Mme. Vera Lorini has a mezzo-soprano voice of pleasing quality, and is a finished artist. She acts with great skill and effect, and is beyond doubt the tragedienne she is claimed to be by her impresario.

In the second act the duo between Leonora (Mme. Vera Lorini) and the King (Morelli) was most pleasantly sung, and was much applauded.

In the third act Mme. Vera Lorini sang successfully the aria, “Ah mio Fernando.” It was evident from her rendition of this favorite morceau that she is an artiste of great ability. In the fourth act Mme. Lorini proved that her reputation as a lyric tragedienne is well deserved. She acted and sang with spirit and expression, and was much applauded.

Signor Stefani was quite successful. He is well known and appreciated by the New York public, and was much applauded last evening. Signor Morelli, a former favorite here, was also very well received.

The orchestra was under the direction of Signor Muzio, the popular chef d’orchestre.

Mr. Grau’s artists will appear here once more, and will also sing in Brooklyn one night, after which they are to make a tour through the West. They will no doubt be very successful.”

Review: New York Post, 12 November 1863, 2.

“Mr. Grau’s Opera Company were introduced at Niblo’s Theatre last night in ‘Favorita’ – that worst of all operas for the display of the abilities of a prima donna. It offers few opportunities for fine singing or strong action, with the exception of one or two passages of the last act, but these were improved to the uttermost by Madame Vera Lorini, who made an excellent impression upon the audience, in spite of the difficulties arising from her surroundings. The orchestra was not full, nor the choruses well trained – faults incident to the shortness of the season, and not to be attributed to any carelessness in the management. The Academy is mortgaged to Maretzek and Anschutz for the winter, and every theatre in the city is occupied, so that Mr. Grau was compelled to make a bargain by favor for the use of Niblo’s for two nights only; naturally enough his company is not in so good working order as if the campaign were of the legitimate length. Considering the nature of these obstacles, Mr. Grau’s artists all performed admirably. Madame Lorini’s voice is good in quality—soft and sweet in its middle tones, though deficient in strength in the lower notes, and hardly capable of giving complete expression to profound emotional passages; but her evident conscientious care and her fine cultivation ensured her a warm reception. She was twice called before the curtain and once encored. Morelli was excellent in every way, and Stefani good. The company appear at the Brooklyn Academy of Music in ‘Favorita’ on Friday evening; closing the season at Niblo’s on Saturday night, when Mlle. Paulina Castri will make her debut as Lucia.”

Review: New-York Daily Tribune, 12 November 1863, 5.

“The crescent cosmopolitanism of New-York is shown in the attempt to have a second Opera company. The new singing birds are here, but where is the cage for them? Every theater is occupied with the acting drama; and the new comers would have remained unheard; had it not been that Niblo’s was let to the songsters for two nights – the shortest ‘season’ on New-York record, though the abuse of terms in advertisements has reduced what used to mean from three to ten months – to three or ten nights. For two nights: - that implies, of course, hurry-skurry, and such an orchestra and chorus as Apollo permits in the pursuit of music under difficulties. The orchestra, however, was better than could have been looked for, the extemporization considered. It of course was deficient in stringed instruments; but as the least operatic orchestra requires sixty instruments for proportion and fullness, we cannot expect to have this complement in any of our opera-houses, which do not count up to forty. Fifteen years ago, in the snug little Astor-place Opera House, there used to be an orchestra of fifty, which would now in a great house represent, the difference of the size of the auditorium considered, from one hundred to one hundred and twenty instruments. But as the public will not pay for high art, of course managers must come down to the vulgar level.

The opera of The Favorita is not a good one to introduce to a new prima donna. So far as the chief lady is concerned, if the librettist and the composer had laid a wager as to which could make the feeblest effect in the first and second acts, they could not have produced anything more dull and dreary. It is only in the third act that the soprano has something to do worth mentioning. The slow movement there with a sequent cabaletta afforded the opportunity of judging of the qualities of Mademoiselle Vera Lorini’s voice, method and style. This lady is good looking—of medium hight [sic], and is well accustomed to the stage. She has a mezzo-soprano voice, reaching in the music she sang last night from about do below the line to si flat above it. The quality is good, round, feminine, and singing: she never screeches, which is positive piety amid the declension of Italian virtuosoism [sic]. Her low notes are deficient in power: her middle register is pure and sympathetic in tone, and her upper notes are sufficiently strong to be heard in the loud ensemble passages, above competition for resonance. Of the lady’s ability to execute florid music we can form no opinion, as the opera affords no chance for it. In the aria, act second, she executed the cantabile slow movement with much unction and pathos, and drew the first applause she received. As the ensemble music which follows is feeble as regards effect for the soprano, we have only to mention the last scene in the fourth act. In this the composer makes amends for shortcomings, and gives us splendid samples of heartbroken music, of the school which Bellini was the first to reveal in 1828 – no other composer having reached the depths of dramatic tenderness and soul-bereavement before that essay. In this last essay, Madame Vera Lorini again shone; but we think she can do better. She was somewhat wanting, and did not realize the pretensions set forth of her being ‘a great lyrical tragedian.’ Great tragedian is a tremendous word: there is no great tragedian on the stage with the English spoken drama, and since the death of Rachel we do not know any on the French stage. The only great lyrical tragedian we ever saw was Ronconi, and he probably is the most gifted actor who ever lived, being at once equally immense in comedy and tragedy. But exaggerations apart – which we beg to say do no good – Mademoiselle Vera Lorini is an accession to the lyrical stage, and we imagine will reward Mr. Grau for having secured her services.

Signor Stefani, the tenor, has vastly advanced since we last heard him. He ‘drew blood’ in his first bit of a solo, and maintained his laurels throughout. The Spirto gentil—which sings itself—it is such an inspiration—was encored. It was given with much taste, judgment, and feeling—all except the alteration of the penultimate note—which butchered the tenderness of the close. Singers should remember that they or all the music masters in the world cannot alter a note of a man of genius.

Signor Morelli was welcomed back again. He is a chaste and elegant baritone, and sang with discretion: not abusing his voice, but remembering that the chief end of music is music, and not noise.

Signor Muzio led, and, excepting some choral discordances, kept his hastily-gathered forces fairly together.

Niblo’s is so large—with the semi al fresco arrangements holding over a thousand more people than the Paris Academy—that it is hardly safe to say what is a large audience. If only half full it holds 1,500. It presented a good appearance last night, for there were many people present. The audience was well disposed to applaud the most salient points.”

Review: New-Yorker Staats-Zeitung und Herold, 12 November 1863, 8.

Yesterday Mr. Grau gave a performance with his opera company at Niblo’s Theater.  It was not his intention to compete with Maretzek’s company—which would hardly be possible—but he is only following the old custom of introducing his newly hired singers from Europe to the New York audience before he takes them to smaller cities in the United States.  The performance was well attended.  Mme. Sophia Lorini had her debut in front of an American audience as ‘Leonora.’  She possesses an extensive and pleasant soprano voice, yet its ‘golden times’ are already over.  Furthermore, she seems to be a passable actress.  The tenor, Signor Stefani, has a strong voice, in the higher ranges pleasant, in the low ranges rather harsh and rough sounding.  Morelli and Barili are already known here, but we would like to say a word about the choir.  The men’s choir should contain twice as many members as it did yesterday for a proper opera performance; the women’s choir was very weak in vocal skills.  In other aspects, some of the women were rather ‘strong.’  It was clearly not the fault of the conductor, Mr. Muzio, that things did not go smoothly in the first performance, and that even Donizetti’s light music wavered at times.  Mr. Muzio conducted the orchestra with attentiveness and energy.  All in all, the audience responded to the performance with much applause.

: Courrier des États-Unis, 12 November 1863.

    "The production of La Favorite  at Niblo’s appeared mediocre to us, on the whole. Chorus, orchestra, scenery, nothing was appropriate to the occasion. The artists necessarily suffered the consequences of this troublesome enlistment. Except for Morelli, who recovered then and there his former success, the effect was tepid and uncertain. We weren’t surprised for M. Stefani, who hadn’t ever left behind unclouded memories ; but there was some disappointment in what Mme Lorini tried to do. In spite of serious accomplishments, she was only semi-suitable. Perhaps, better supported tomorrow evening in Brooklyn, she’ll make up for it."


Review: New-York Times, 13 November 1863, 5.

“Mr. Grau’s first performance since his return from Europe took place at this establishment on Wednesday evening. The house was handsomely and brilliantly attended. Mr. Grau, although he happens to be out in the cold at present, so far as direct management is concerned, is borne in kindly remembrance by the public. At times, when operatic enterprise seemed to be dead, he sprung to the front, and by combining the scattered legions, made a goodly fight for Art. In the present instance, he has abandoned the traditions of his remarkably successful career, and has ventured upon an experiment which is always attended with danger. Instead of using the material washed ashore from wrecked managements, he has visited Europe and procured there the precise article that he needed. It is certainly an instance of the gentleman’s determination, that notwithstanding the apparent impossibility of securing a house—or if a house, then of an orchestra and chorus—he has managed to fulfill his promise of playing in the metropolis previous to departing for the Provinces. Allowances must certainly be made for an impromptu experiment, such as that of Wednesday night. The chorus and orchestra were not what they would be if Mr. Grau were playing here regularly. But the shortcomings in these departments did not materially interfere with the result of the night.  The leading artists whom Mr. Grau desired to introduce, were received by the public with great favor. Their success, in fact, was complete. 

Donizetti’s opera of ‘La Favorita’ was selected for the occasion. Mme. Vera Lorini claimed this work as the one in which she should make her début before an American public. The role is rich in contrasts: the courtly graces of the first act, the overwhelming calamities of the second, and the religious yearnings of the third, being excellently calculated to display the versatility of an artist. There is not, however, in any of these phases, a positive escape for the tragic ability which Mr. Grau claims for his prima donna. What could be readily perceived, was that she is an actress who knows her opportunities and seizes them with intelligence and grace. Mme. Vera Lorini possesses a fine mezzo-soprano voice. It is unusually fresh in quality, and seems to be of sufficient compass, although in the lower tones it is rather weak. Expression is the special gift of this kind of voice, and we find, therefore, in Mme. Vera Lorini much earnestness and tenderness of style. This was especially noticeable in the piece Ah, mio Fernando, which we have seldom heard given with nicer musical balance. As a vocalist pure and simple, the lady seems to be thoroughly experienced and admirable. Indeed, the whole effect of her performance was in the highest degree flattering to her capabilities.

Signors Stefani and Morelli are artists already well and favorable known in this community. The first-named gentleman has a tenor-robusto of very fine quality. He has greatly improved, and in the tender passages of the last act created a perfect furore. Signor Morelli was laboring under a slight attack of hoarseness, but we all know he is one of the best baritones we have ever had in this country.”

Announcement: New York Clipper, 14 November 1863, 243.

“What a jolly row there will be among the Italian opera people this week. Maretzek holds the strongest position, but as Grau has commenced a flank movement, he may have to be reinforced to enable him to hold his grip. Max must not rely on any ‘invalid corps,’ but must bring to his support good, healthy recruits, who can sing a siege to scorn, as the poet O’Reilly would melodiously express it. Grau will fight hard, for he is well supported by a strong company, while a still stronger reserve is within supporting distance. All right. Let the war be waged according to civilized rules, and ‘Christian principles,’ and let there be no starving or ill treatment of prisoners. In order that Grau may have a fair shake, and an undisturbed fight, ‘Matilda Heron has, in the kindest manner, consented to relinquish two nights of her engagement’ at Niblo’s. Grau should be ever thankful to Matilda for this act of professional courtesy, provided he has not paid her a bonus for so doing.”

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

Grau has been moving around very nervously, trying at first to secure the Academy on Maretzek’s off nights; but the jealousy of the artists, it is said, prevented the consummation of the plan.”

Review: New York Clipper, 21 November 1863, 251.

“Manager Grau took possession of Niblo’s Garden on the 11th inst., for the purpose of introducing to us Americans his new artists, just imported by him from Europe. ‘La Favorita’ was the opera selected for the initial performance, and if the success of a first night may be taken as a criterion, Manager Grau may congratulate himself upon opening his season in so favorable a manner, and this in opposition to the big house on Fourteenth street, which produced on the same evening a new opera. ‘La Favorita’ is one of Donizetti’s most carefully written works, and has been so frequently played here that it is unnecessary for us to give the plot, as it is familiar to all frequenters of the opera. The orchestra appeared punctually, and Muzio took his seat amidst much applause. The short instrumental overture was soon over, and the curtain slowly rose upon the crowded and expectant house. The applause accorded Stefani and Morelli was prolonged and hearty, but the applause that greeted Signora Vera Lorini, the new prima donna, was very flattering. She has a mezzo soprano voice, and sang uncommonly well; her clear, tuneful voice thrilled through every heart. There are few vocalists on the operatic stage who are able to entrance an audience, or create such deep sympathy and interest as Lorini; others may sing better, as far as vocal gymnastics are concerned, but few can impart such fierce passion or tender feeling. This lady has the rare quality of a thorough control of expression, and can sway the hearts and emotions of her hearers as the winds move the forest boughs. The effect that she produced in the last scene – while, kneeling at the cross, she hears Fernando’s voice singing within the church – was electrifying; and in the grand duo which follows, she excited the audience to such a pitch of enthusiasm that words cannot express the tumult of frenzied applause which pealed forth from every part of the house. Upon the fall of the curtain, this expression of delight was renewed with even more fervor, and her appearance was hailed with acclamations. The tenor, Stefani, was most enthusiastically received during the entire evening. He seemed to sing somewhat carefully during the early part of the evening; but he warmed by degrees, and in the fourth act produced a great effect by his beautiful rendition of ‘Spirto Gentil,’ which he gave as well, if not better than Brignoli himself. It was encored rapturously, and his claims as a first class tenor were endorsed on all sides. Morelli, the baritone, is a thorough artist, and whatever he may have lacked in power, he amply atoned for in taste. The chorus, although small, was good. The throng of ladies and gentlemen was immense, and the toilettes brilliant in the extreme.”

Review: Musical Review and World, 21 November 1863, 279-280.

“Mr. J. Grau’s company gave two performances, prior to their departure for the provinces. Most of the members of this troupe are favorably known to our public, especially Signor Morelli, who is still the best baritone in the country. Signor Steffani [sic], although universally straining his voice too much, is also a very acceptable tenor. The two operas in which these singers, as well as the new prime-donne, appeared, were ‘La Favorita’ and ‘Lucia,’ by Donizetti. Madame Vera Lorini sang in the first-named opera. She is a well-known artist, not exactly in the prime of her youth and reputation, but still gifted with a very agreeable voice and high histrionic talent. She made a very favorable impression. . . . Chorus and orchestra, on both occasions, were wretched, and, consequently, Signor Muzio was led with less ease over certain difficulties, than on other occasions.”