Maretzek Italian Opera: Faust

Event Information

Academy of Music

Manager / Director:
Max Maretzek

Max Maretzek

Event Type:

Record Information


Last Updated:
29 August 2018

Performance Date(s) and Time(s)

27 Nov 1863, 7:45 PM

Performers and/or Works Performed

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


Advertisement: New York Herald, 26 November 1863.

Advertisement: New York Herald, 27 November 1863.

Announcement: New York Post, 27 November 1863, 2.

Announcement: New-York Times, 27 November 1863, 4.

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

As the intermission between the first and second acts is of very short duration, the audience is respectfully requested not to leave their seats.”

Advertisement: New-Yorker Staats-Zeitung und Herold, 27 November 1863.

Announcement: New-Yorker Staats-Zeitung und Herold, 27 November 1863, 8.

Tonight the opera will probably fill the house again.  We believe, however, that this opera will not fulfill the expectations of Mr. Maretzek and other opera directors.  This opera will not be a favorite here and will not have many performances.

Review: New York Herald, 28 November 1863, 3.

“Though the music of ‘Faust’ never reaches the higher dramatic effect of the story, it is still of a very agreeable character.  It has some richness and a certain force in its adaptation to the higher moods of the piece.  It hits the popular fancy, and will hold it, and will also certainly grow into the good graces of those who pretend to be better judges than the mass.

Miss Kellogg sang the part of Margaret with the quiet earnestness proper to it, and also acted it very well.  Biachi sang and acted Mephistopheles with spirit and in the most admirable style.

. . . Mazzoleni trod the boards in triumph. . . . [L]ast night the greater part of the house was on its toilette.  Parquet, balcony, boxes, all glistened and sparkled and danced with bright eyes, jewels, ribbons, lace, feathers, flowers and fans.  Some few of the curls may have been false; but the majority were real, and all were pretty. . . .

We noticed in the audience one person in whom there was no particular pretence to beauty—a little old man who, even with his high stovepipe hat on, could stand under the arm of many men who would like to be thought giants.  His brilliant, dark eyes, narrow, sallow face, sharp nose, thin lips and grey goatee, were, every one of them, intent upon the opera.  It was Palmo.  It is a sufficient comment on the growth of the opera here that this man, so prominently identified with the introduction of Opera in this city, is alive to attend performances so successful as that of last night was.”

Review: New York Post, 28 November 1863, 2.

“Last evening, as was anticipated, the house was crowded, and the opera being more effectively rendered, was more thoroughly appreciated, Miss Kellogg, Sulzer and Biachi being enthusiactically encored.

Review: New-York Times, 28 November 1863, 6.
“The performance of ‘Faust,’ last night, was so near perfection that criticism can barely refer to it, except in terms of unlimited praise.  All the hesitation of the first night had disappeared, and the artists did ample justice to themselves.  The house was crowded, and the audience indulged in many encores, limiting them, it seemed, not by their desires, but by the painful necessity of allowing the performance to come to an end.”
Review: New-Yorker Staats-Zeitung und Herold, 28 November 1863, 8.

“The second performance of Faust yesterday, in front of a filled house, went much smoother than the first one.  There were fewer mistakes, the singers were much more secure, and the ensemble was much livelier.  Faust is an opera that needs to be listened to more than once to become fully aware of its beauty.  Of the performers, only Biachi seemed to have understood the character of his role, whereas Mr. Mazzoleni – as beautifully as he did sing – seemed to not completely know what to make of the ‘Faust.’  The naivete of the ‘Gretchen,’ as played by Miss Kellogg, appeared artificial.  Chorus and orchestra were significantly more graceful than in the first performance.  The orchestra, however, still lagged behind in the 2nd and 3rd act.  The mise en scene of the opera is brilliant.”

Review: Courrier des États-Unis, 28 November 1863.


    “Yesterday evening, Faust was appreciated more than at the first performance. One has to educate the audience and get them used to this music, new for them, so that they will appreciate its worth. It’s an act of courage on the part of M. Maretzeck [sic], to whom everyone owes  thanks. The indefatigable director, who has the hall at Irving Place until December first, wished to profit from his last day, and will give Faust again Monday, November 30. After three hearings, this opera will have conquered its place in the repertoire, and should provide a beautiful course for the next campaign.”

Review: New-Yorker Staats-Zeitung und Herold, 29 November 1863, 8.

Analysis of Faust.  It was the most significant performance at the Opera House, yet it was not considered successful.

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

“The performance on Friday night was enthusiastic.  All the leading morceaux were encored. . . .

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.  But on Friday, when the opera was repeated for the second time, the wholesome fruits of thoroughness had ripened.   Signor Mazzoleni had entirely recovered his presence of mind, and pioneered his rather intractable voice through the difficult passages of the music with much success.  Signor Biachi surpassed the most sanguine expectations of his friends.  The music, though somewhat wide its scope [sic], suits Signor Biachi’s voice, and he succeeded in interpreting it to the satisfaction of all present. . . . Miss Stockton has a pleasant little opportunity of displaying the agreeable quality of her voice.  The passages allotted to Martha are amongst the prettiest in the opera.

Miss Kellogg’s Margherita was from the first perfect.  It formed the exception on the opening night, and on Friday maintained a steady preëminence.  The part is of itself picturesque, but if it were less so it could not fail, in such charming hands, to win the sympathy of the audience. . . . In the church scene Miss Kellogg attained to a degree of dramatic intensity of which we hardly thought she was capable.  Throughout the opera the music of the role receives the most delicate treatment from this accomplished prima donna.  It suits her voice to perfection; there is not a note in it that could be sung more truthfully, or with better effect.  We have no recollection of a performance that was so admirable and well sustained in all musical and dramatic respects.  It is a thousand pities that the opera must be withdrawn.”

Review: New York Clipper, 05 December 1863, 267.

“In a most interesting part of ‘Faust,’ at the Academy, on the 27th Nov, ‘a babe which was sleeping’ in its mother’s arms, suddenly awoke from its slumbers, and set up a most frightful and unearthly yell, which cordials nor squills could not allay.  If ‘it’ had only cried in harmony with the tenor man, who was doing his prettiest, it would have been well enough; but it didn’t; it made the most horrid discord we ever listened to.  The man on the stage continued on the even tenor of his way, and the infant kept on the uneven treble of its way.  Everybody was in a fury, and we really believe that if ‘it’ could have been got at while ‘mewling and puking in its mother’s arms,’ a thousand pretty and willing hands would have cheerfully strangulated ‘it’ on the spot, for even the girls of sweet sixteen wished they ‘could only get hold of the brat.’  The perplexed mother, who occupied a prominent place in the balcony, at length extricated herself, baby, singers, and audience from their perplexing predictament, and left the house, a wiser if not more operatically-inclined woman.  Moral—Children in arms should never be taken to a place of public entertainment. Conundrum—Why is a crying baby at a place of amusement like the toothache. Because there is no enjoyment until it is removed.”

Review: New York Clipper, 05 December 1863, 267.

“Somewhat to our surprise, we found the house well filled, by a gay and exceedingly fashionably attired assemblage, the new white opera cloaks, which impart to the ladies a very peculiar and night-gownly appearance. . . . We say that we were surprised at such a good house, from the fact that the attendance during the season has been far from good. . . . This opera of ‘Faust,’ by the way, is one that has been far more originally treated than most of the works of the present schools of artists. . . . The overture, promised at a quarter before eight, began half an hour later, and the curtain rose upon the first scene at 8 1/2 .  The quiet and effective overture puts us in mind of one of the Philharmonic concert pieces. . . . [W]e have especially to commend Miss Kellogg’s rendition of the role of Marguerite, and also Biachi’s Mephistopheles; in fact, the performance throughout, vocally, was excellent.”

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

Long article on the opera.  “‘Faust’ was but coldly received on the night of its first performance [11/25], owing to the deficiency on the part of most of the singers.  On the second night, however, these felt more at ease in the somewhat unusual dress, and it is evident that the work gave greater satisfaction.  This would have been still more so, if the score had been more faithfully adhered to, than was the case.  The arrangement of the fourth act, putting the end in the beginning, and the beginning in the end, leaving, moreover, out a great many things necessary to complete the understanding of the plot, does not add to the general effect, and puts, for instance, the doings of Margaret in a somewhat unintelligible light.  In Italian operas it does not matter much if whole scenes are left out; but in a work like ‘Faust,’ it is an injustice to the chief performers, to make them appear ridiculous.  The Press has already fully commented upon the extraordinary delineation of the character of Margaret, by Miss Kellogg.  It was certainly a most finished performance, one which realized all the expectations we from the first based upon the talent of this very gifted young lady.  The seduction scene could not have been rendered with more girlish charm, modesty, and truth.  It was all so natural, and yet it was art throughout.  The singing was also good, but the wear and tear of her profession tells already upon her delicate voice.

Signor Biachi was in every respect a capital Mephistophiles, and will be still more so if he has acted the part oftener.  We object, however, very strongly to the manner in which he laughed, in the moonshine scene, as well as in his serenade, in the fourth act (by-the-bye, this piece is one of the best in the opera). It was vulgar, forced, and nearly spoiled the effect of both scenes.

Signor Mazzoleni is rather too much tenore robusto as ‘Faust.’  The part does not suit him at all.

The minor parts were given tolerably well.  The choruses in the second act might have been sung with more effect.” 

Review: Courrier des États-Unis, 22 December 1863.

    "I’ve heard, about those two performances of Faust, almost everything good that enthusiasm can imagine and all the bad that a vexed critic can suggest. They weren’t any more in agreement on the music itself than on its interpretation. Some found the first sublime and the second excellent; others declared that it was impossible to present a more pitiful disorganized mess. I strongly ask for pardon from the latter and fully grant them the right to find what I say here as coming from a blind person who talks about colors; but let me permit myself to say that, for at least the score, I have to beat them down.  When one musical work has anointed its author one of the best composers of his time, in the presence of the Parisian audience, it is quite a bit presumptuous to pretend to judge it to be bad, and that only on one or two hearings to which they have only lent a distracted or prejudiced ear. About the preceding, Gounod’s inspirations and effects aren’t those which one is used to encountering every day, it doesn’t follow that they have to be treated with superb disdain; on the contrary, it’s a reason to study them even closer and to succeed in fathoming them. In the matter of art, no school has a monopoly on beauty, and whoever aspires to the title of connoisseur should familiarize himself with all, in order to appreciate them by comparison. –As for the manner in which the new opera was delivered, it is conceivable that it had its weaknesses, but it isn’t without having its merits. I array myself decidedly on the side of those who are grateful to Maretzeck [sic] for having mounted Faust and who hope to see him give it again . . . .