Maretzek Italian Opera: Faust

Event Information

Academy of Music

Manager / Director:
Max Maretzek

Max Maretzek

Event Type:

Record Information


Last Updated:
27 April 2017

Performance Date(s) and Time(s)

25 Nov 1863, Evening

Program Details

U.S. premiere of Faust in Italian.

Performers and/or Works Performed

Composer(s): Gounod
Text Author: Barbier, Carré
Participants:  Maretzek Italian Opera Company;  Fanny Stockton (role: Martha);  Domenico Coletti (role: Wagner);  Clara Louise Kellogg (role: Marguerite);  Henrietta Sulzer (role: Siebel);  Francesco Mazzoleni (role: Faust);  Hannibal Biachi (role: Mephistopheles);  Francesco Ippolito (role: Valentin)


Announcement: New York Herald, 23 November 1863.
“Maretzek’s first season will close this week, during which the long promised and anxiously expected ‘Faust’ will be produced. . . . [O]ur readers will understand the importance of this production when it is known that in Paris it was played over 700 times.  In London, Milan and throughout Germany Faust has been an immense success.”
Announcement: New York Post, 23 November 1863, 2.

Announcement: New-York Times, 23 November 1863, 4.

“The work has been prepared with elaborate care and at great expense.  If it could have been produced a fortnight earlier the pecuniary result would have been much more satisfactory to the management.  As it is, Mr. Maretzek is entitled to the greatest praise for the industry and liberality he has lavished on the work.  The only return that he can now expect is the gratification of having fulfilled his promise to the public.”

Advertisement: New-Yorker Staats-Zeitung und Herold, 23 November 1863.

Advertisement: New York Herald, 24 November 1863.

Announcement: New York Post, 24 November 1863, 2.
“[Faust] has created an immense sensation in Europe.”
Announcement: New-York Times, 24 November 1863, 4.

Announcement: Courrier des États-Unis, 24 November 1863.

Advertisement: Courrier des États-Unis, 24 November 1863.

Advertisement: New-Yorker Staats-Zeitung und Herold, 24 November 1863.
An extended advertisement.
Advertisement: New-York Times, 25 November 1863, 7.

“No opera ever, in the short space of four years, obtained the celebrity now attached to the ‘Faust’ of Maestro Gounod. . . . In Paris, ‘Faust’ has been performed already over seven hundred times.  Milan witnessed it simultaneously with London, and in each Capital the public evinced the most remarkable appreciation of the merits of the work, whether musical, dramatic, or artistic.  Throughout the whole of Germany the opera has occasioned a profound sensation, and is regarded by managers as a never-failing attraction.”

Announcement: New-York Times, 25 November 1863.

“To-night Gounod’s ‘Faust’ will be produced for the first time in New-York.  It is a grand romantic opera, involving in its interpretation all the resources of the Academy.  Mr. Maretzek has spared no expense, and has been prodigal of labor in the bringing out of this very important work.  Gounod is a French composer, who, in ‘Faust’ at least, has won a success which Europe has not been slow to indorse [sic].  Since the days of Meyerbeer’s ‘Robert le Diable’ there has been no opera that combines inspiration and learning in so remarkable a manner.  ‘Faust’ has created a popular and artistic sensation in all the cities where it has been played.  If it fails to do so here it will not be the fault of Mr. Maretzek, who has been liberal in all that can contribute to the success of the mise en scene and music.  There is, however, no ground for apprehension.  The composition is beautiful, and of the age.”

Review: New York Herald, 26 November 1863, 4.

“The scene presented to the eye by the Academy of Music last evening bore evidence to a more than usual amount of expectancy, judging from a more than usually careful attention to externals on the part of the audience.  We have rarely seen a more brilliant house. . . . Not only were the beau monde in full force, but the demi-monde in full feather. . . .

The occasion of all this excitement was the production of ‘Faust,’ a work of which we have had occasional glimpses in our Philharmonics and other concerts, but which was represented here in its integrity for the first time, on this occasion. . . .

. . . You are carried through the five acts of the piece without being even moved to enthusiasm either by the singers or the music.  In other words, it is wanting in those strong contrasts—those effects of light and shade—which render the works of Verdi so enduringly popular.

From what we have stated it will be seen that there was but little room for the artists to produce any very marked impression in their respective rôles.  Miss Kellogg was the Margaret of the evening, and did her best to please; but we must candidly own that there are other characters in which we like her better.  Mazzoleni’s Faust lacked spirit, probably from the fact that the part was not congenial to him.  The Mephistopheles of Biachi was the prominenet feature of the performance, and was well sung and acted throughout.  So far as the orchestra and chorus were concerned there was but little room for criticism.”

Review: New-York Times, 26 November 1863, 4.

Includes a synopsis of each act.  “The ‘Faust’ which M. Gounod has set to music, is not the exuberant dramatic production of Goethe, nor the simple, time-honored legend used by Spohr.  It is the melodrama of MM. Barbier and Carre, which was played last season at Niblo’s Garden. . . . Last night saw its production on the boards of our Academy, and witnessed a new success for the composer. . . .

In manner rather than matter, there are frequent traces of well-known masters in M. Gounod’s score.  Sometimes they come to us in the shape of harsh modulations, and dreary drawling intervals, as in Wagner; sometimes in the use of the violins, as in Meyerbeer; and sometimes in weird combinations of the wood instruments, as in Mendelssohn.  But these indications of a studious and retentive mind, are far too slight to detract from the general and unquestionable merit and originality of the opera, as a whole.  Mr. Gounod has produced a work of a regular interest. . . . In the use of the orchestra he is judicious and effective, without being extravagant.  We know of no composer who can claim much superiority over him in this respect.  ‘Faust,’ indeed, although unequal in its parts, deserves to be regarded as the most gratifying addition to operatic music that has been made during the past fifteen years.  If—as its success would indicate—it is the pioneer work a new school of French opera, then we may hopefully look to France for that juste milieu of intellectual dignity and emotional warmth which Germany has sought for in vain, and Italy is not destined to supply.

The production of a work like this is attended with difficulties that are not encountered in the ordinary run of Italian opera.  The music is strange, and demands prolonged study on the part of the artists.  Even then a few performances are needed before they feel quite at home in their rôles.  This fact was apparent last night.  With the exception of Miss Kellogg (Margherita) all the singers seemed uneasy, uncertain and nervous.  They failed to do justice to themselves.  We shall await, therefore, the second performance, when we are sure the other members of the cast will realize the expectations excited by the rehearsals last week.  In the meantime, we may say, without injustice to any one, that the honors of the night were carried off by Miss Kellogg.  The ensembles in the earlier part of the opera lacked precision, but for a first night every allowance has to be made.  Mr. Maretzek has labored hard—perhaps too hard—to bring out this remarkable work.  When the public becomes acquainted with the music, it will, we are sure, appreciate his liberal exertions in so praiseworthy a cause.  But before this can be the case, they must become somewhat familiar with the peculiarities of M. Gounod’s music.  We lack space to add more than the simple statement that the mise en scene is in every way creditable to the manager and the Academy.”

Review: New-Yorker Staats-Zeitung und Herold, 26 November 1863, 8.

“Because the performance did not end until past midnight, we will not be able to give a full review of it today, but will reserve it for another day.  We are able to say, however, that Faust, despite its beauty and the precision of this performance, was not as well received as we had expected.  Perhaps our audience has gotten used to the melodious style of the Italian operas.  The music is more repetitive and easy to grasp, and the melodies can give one something to whistle on your way home.  The most favorable parts were the second act, the quartet in the 3rd act, and the entire 4th act.  As mentioned before, the quality of the performance was excellent, especially Mr. Mazzoleni, Mr. Biachi and Miss Kellogg.”

: Courrier des États-Unis, 26 November 1863.


    “The first performance of Faust should have repaid M. Maretzeck [sic] yesterday for the care that he put into mounting this work. Although many of the passages of M. Gounod’s opera aren’t easy to catch hold of on first hearing, the audience relished them completely. Mlle Kellogg is a charming Marguerite, M. Biachi an excellent Mephistopheles and M. Mazzoleni a very  adequate Faust. Mlle Sulzer, in a rather washed-out role, knew how to get herself applauded, as did M. Yppolito. We will revisit this work at length.”

Review: New York Post, 27 November 1863, 2.
“Rarely has the Academy of Music presented a more crowded and brilliant appearance. . . . [C]onsidering its difficulty, [the opera] was exceedingly well rendered.”
Review: New-Yorker Staats-Zeitung und Herold, 27 November 1863, 8.

Review is mainly an elaboration on Gounod and his opera.  “The performance seemed more like a rehearsal and, therefore, the effort of the singers will not be discussed.  This opera will not be a favorite here and will not have many performances.”

Review: New-York Times, 30 November 1863, 4.

“The simplest way of courting failure on any subject is to be overanxious concerning it.  One-half of the breakdowns of life arise from too much effort.  It is the pale-faced student, with the overwrought mind and a large consciousness of responsibilities, who is in danger of being plucked, not the phlegmatic drudge who cares for nothing in particular, and would just as soon march out without a degree as with one.  These remarks are suggested by the poor performance on Wednesday last.  The artists of Mr. Maretzek’s company are singularly conscientious; they had labored hard at rehearsal, and studied the music with intelligence and devotion.  They knew that a great deal was expected of them, and, with a single exception, they all failed.”

Review: Musical Review and World, 05 December 1863, 293.

Long article on the opera, with little mention of the actual performance.  “‘Faust’ was but coldly received on the night of its first performance, owing to the deficiency on the part of most of the singers.”

Review: Dwight's Journal of Music, 14 December 1863, 147.

Reprint of R: NYT 11/26/63.  Includes plot synopsis and appraisal of composer.