Maretzek Italian Opera: Norma

Event Information

Academy of Music

Manager / Director:
Max Maretzek

Event Type:

Record Information


Last Updated:
29 August 2018

Performance Date(s) and Time(s)

10 Oct 1863, Evening

Program Details

Mazzoleni became hoarse at the end of the first act and could not finish the performance. He had no replacement, so the performance continued without a tenor part.

Performers and/or Works Performed

Composer(s): Bellini
Text Author: Romani
Participants:  Hannibal Biachi (role: Oroveso);  Giuseppina Medori (role: Norma);  Henrietta Sulzer (role: Adalgisa);  Francesco Mazzoleni (role: Pollio)


Review: Courrier des États-Unis, 12 October 1862.

" . . . . The reappearance of Mme Medori in Norma crowned the week; that is to say that she concluded it in a milieu of emotion and enthusiasm. In the hands of the great lyric tragedienne, the role of the druidess has an irresistible effect, which would drag thunderous applause and avalanches of flowers from the most sullen listeners. Saturday evening's performance saw the ovations that marked the end of last season renewed and one could see the difference there is between a triumph spontaneously discerned by the audience and  glorifications arranged at home. Mlle Sulzer had her good and legitimate part of the success; Adalgisa is, I believe, the creation where she's put the most soul and emotion. Biachi is always the excellent artist that you've always hastened to see and hear again. But this production, which is so beautiful, has also had its untoward accidents: almost from the opera's beginning, Mazzoleni's voice was extinguished in his throat in a manner as sudden as it was absolute. After vain efforts to find a substitute for him, he had to continue until the end, but without the ability to do anything other than hold his place on the stage. As no illness accompanied this bizarre vocal eclipse, it's permitted to hope that it won't have any bad consequences, and that we'll see Ernani appear this evening with all of its powers. After the three mishaps, befalling Bellini, Barili and Mazzoleni by turn, the vein of voice-extinctions should be exhausted for the entire season . . . ."

Advertisement: Courrier des États-Unis, 01 October 1863.

According to CEU, Norma is a matinee. That is wrong. The ad on 10/06 is correct.

Advertisement: New York Herald, 02 October 1863.

Announcement: New York Herald, 06 October 1863, 3.

Announcement: New York Herald, 07 October 1863, 6.

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

[A]lso mentions that Verdi’s Macbeth is in progress, and that there will be two Saturday matinees per month, alternating with extra performances on Saturday evening.

Advertisement: New-York Times, 07 October 1863, 6.

“In announcing that Opera will be given on the evenings of every alternate Saturday, the Director is desirous that the public and patrons of the Opera should understand that the innovation is undertaken for the best reasons only. In the principal cities of Italy it is usual for operatic representations to be given every night of the week, while London, Paris, St. Petersburg, and Havana are favored with four nights of Opera weekly. So far as precedents are concerned, nothing more need be said, but the Director has been impelled to follow the European custom to a limited extent, because the expenditure for the present season—in consequence of the increased salaries and higher prices of every necessary article—will be so large that there remains only the alternative of increasing the price of admission or of augmenting the number of evening performances. In choosing the latter alternative the Director sincerely believes he will best meet the wishes of the public.

            The success of Matinees, it should be borne in mind, is often periled by the state of the weather, which, during the winter months, is apt to be stormy and disagreeable to an extent sufficient seriously to injure an operatic enterprise. Matinees, in fact, with present expenses and a low price of admission, are but voluntary sacrifices, which the Director will make twice per month for the gratification of the lady patrons of the Opera. The Director trusts that his determination, therefore, to give two extra evening performances and two Matinees each month, will meet with general approbation, and that this departure from the previous routine of performances will be viewed as a matter of urgent expediency and generally supported by the habitues of the Academy of Music.

max maretzek.

Announcement: New York Herald, 09 October 1863, 3.

Announcement: New York Post, 10 October 1863, 4.

Advertisement: New-York Times, 10 October 1863, 7.
Performers listed, with first names.
Advertisement: New-Yorker Staats-Zeitung und Herold, 10 October 1863.

Review: New York Herald, 11 October 1863, 1.

“Last evening Bellini’s chef d’œuvre, ‘Norma,’ in which opera Mme. Medori is so eminently successful, was sung at the Academy of Music. The house was filled with an audience less fashionable than on the subscription nights, but who seemed to enjoy the music with a proper appreciation of its great beauty.

In the first act Mme. Medori was most successful. She was encored in the Casta Diva. The duo between Adalgisa and Norma was also rendered with great effect and the opera was progressing with éclat when Signor Mazzoleni Pollio [sic] suddenly lost his voice. It was a total extinction of his power, and he was forced to end the act in dumb show. This was a most unfortunate event. The fine trio between Norma, Adaalgisa and Pollio was of course ruined, Mme. Medori and Mlle. Sulzer getting through it as best they could.

During the entr’acte Maretzek in vain endeavored to procure the services of some of the tenors present. They all fled, apparently under the impression that the house would have to be closed; but Maretzek came before the curtain and announced to the audience that as he could not procure a substitute for Signor Mazzoleni, that artist would finish the opera as best he could. Those present accepted the proposition with shouts of approval and the opera was thus terminated. It was unfortunate for Mme. Medori that such a contretemps should have occurred as she was in fine voice, and acted with all her accustomed power and energy; she was greatly applauded throughout the evening.

Mlle. Sulzer was quite successful as Adalgisa, and was applauded heartily by the audience; she both sung and acted extremely well.

Biachi is beyond all doubt a most admirable Oroveso. He sung with even more of his usual spirit and power, and was greatly applauded.”

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

“At the Opera, on Saturday evening, but for the sudden and mysterious indisposition of the tenor, ‘Norma’ would have carried the house by storm. Madame Medori was in splendid voice, and the rôle was her favorite one, in which she greatly excels, but the effect of the performance was sadly marred by the defection of Mazzoleni, who acted in dumb show what should have been rendered with all his artistic power. Casta Diva was exquisitely sung by Medori, and received a hearty encore, but the trio between Norma, Adalgisa, and Pollio was immediately afterwards reduced to a duet between Medori and Sulzer, who did their best to recover the ground lost by the withdrawal of Pollio. Mr. Maretzek came forward between the acts with a dolorous and half-comic apology, declaring that he had endeavored to catch one of three or four other tenors who were in the house, but ‘they all ran immediately away,’ and under these untoward circumstances he threw himself upon the indulgence of the house. It was cheerfully granted in a round of applause, for Mr. Maretzek is a pleasant manager, who never willfully imposes upon his patrons, whatever his artists may take it into their heads to do.”

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

Nothing is more unreliable than the weather and therefore the voices of singers. This became quite obvious last week when two operas were affected by the indisposition of lead singers. First, Bellini’s hoarseness in Roberto Devereux and then Mazzoleni in Norma last Saturday. Mazzoleni had accepted the part of ‘Pollio’ to “render the cast most perfect” as the cast leaflet (in the program) said. We find this remark most appropriate, since the part of ‘Pollio’ is considered to be one of the most ungrateful for a tenor in Italian operas. The role of the love-addicted Roman with his low and plebeian motives has the audience emotionally turned against him from the very beginning. Vocally this part is rather insignificant next to the two wonderful female roles. We already noticed in the first act that Mazzoleni’s voice was affected. When Maretzek stepped out in front of the curtain at the end of the first act, he announced that Mazzoleni has become completely hoarse. He also stated that he had been aware of other tenors in the house before, yet they all seem to have disappeared the more it became obvious the part of ‘Pollio’ needed to be filled. He concluded that Signor Mazzoleni therefore will continue to perform, but the bigger numbers have to be cancelled. The strong tenor voice as part of the ensemble in the finale of the last act, was dearly missed. Mme. Medori impressed again with her dramatic acting and singing skills, however, we find that her voice does not always live up to the requirements of the part. Miss Sulzer‘s performance was noteworthy again; she has developed quite an extraordinary ‘bravura style’ and virtuosity with the [musical] figures of the grand duet with ‘Norma’. Mister Biachi performed for the first time in this season as ‘Oreveso’ and, as usual presented himself as a fine singer with a clear and beautiful voice. This week, Verdi will be dominating the ‘scene’. His opera Macbeth is in preparation.

Review: New York Herald, 13 October 1863, 3.

Letter to the Editor from Signor Maccaferri.  “I feel it is an imperative duty to make known to the general public, who have always sustained me, that on Saturday night, during the performance of ‘Norma’ at the Academy of Music, I was not in attendance at the Academy, and was entirely ignorant of the unfortunate circumstances attending  the sudden illness of Signor Mazzoleni.  Had I known of it in time the management could have had, as they often had, my very best efforts as a substitute in the place of Signor Mazzoleni, without fee or reward.  Respectfully yours, A. MACCAFERRI, Tenor.”