Academy of Music
Manager / Director:
8 July 2013
“The performance of Robert le Diable attracted a vast multitude Monday in New York and yesterday in Brooklyn. The audience of choice for Italian opera was given an encounter with German opera this time, and one saw much grand attire in the hall. The execution didn’t fully live up to the hopes. It would be unjust to speak of M. Himmer, who has scarcely recovered from illness. M. Formès acts well, and wouldn’t sing badly if the majority of his intonations weren’t off-key. In spite of everything, he’s a much better Bertram than M. Hermann. M. Habelmann is an excellent Raimbaud: here’s an artist with a good future. Mme Rotter was quite dramatic in the role of Alice, and Mme Johannsen sang Isabelle’s two arias very well.
One of the great difficulties , for the Italians as well as the Germans, in executing the great French repertory, is the impossibility of a good set-design, which would cost too much. You mustn’t hold it against M. Grover to make us hear operas such as Juive and Robert. If you’re not entirely satisfied with the current production, you enjoy it for the reminder [of the opera].”
"A good audience, which doesn't rebel at anything and applauds everything, including false notes and eccentric gestures--tht's the audience of the German opera. There was much to praise in the season of which M. Grover was the impresario, but there was also a lot to find fault with. The two operabic obstacles presented by him, La Juive and Robert le Diable, were performed deplorably. Except for M. Habelmann, who's still an imperfect tenor, but who gives us great hope, the roles were massacred, debased, parodied. M. Karl Formes, who enjoys a great reputation, did not act badly, but his voice is "ou sont les neiges d'Antan". There remain to him rare flashes of lightining, but he sings out of tune....
For the rest, the performance of Robert. . . and works of French grand opera in general, present some insurmountable difficulties in New York. For these operas it is necessary to have a stage that is extended and arranged in a different way than that at Irving Place; decorations more sumptuous; massed choruses with large numbers of singers; a corps de ballet, first-rate individuals, dancers, etc. etc.; in sum, all that is lacking here. . . . What's more ridiculous than the third act of Robert, when, in place of sixty or eighty nuns rising from their tombs and gliding to all points of a vast scene, four or five badly dressed sisters, coming out of two trap-doors? The stately music of the composer becomes ridiculous by contrast with this shabby production, and all the spectators want to laugh. Never have we seen a bacchanal more sad and less seductive, and one doesn't understand how Robert allows himself to be charmed by dances one wouldn't be pleased by in Carpentras and by four or five unfortunates who seem broken-hearted to be running around him. . . .
We haven't had to be as severe in regard to the women. . . . Mme Johannsen doesn't have her voice any more. If she sings pianisimo [sic], one discovers in her the singer of taste and talent, but if she has to give [out with] her voice, she loses all her advantages. . . .
Mme Rotter has some [good] qualities and some flaws. Her voice is too often muffled and uneven. She sings in spasms. . . .
After so much criticism, we re pleased to end by praise, addressed to the chorus and above all to the orchestra. . . . "