Grover German Opera: Robert le Diable

Event Information

Academy of Music

Manager / Director:
Leonard Grover

Carl Anschütz

Event Type:

Record Information


Last Updated:
8 July 2013

Performance Date(s) and Time(s)

19 Sep 1864, Evening

Program Details

Performers and/or Works Performed

aka Robert the devil; Robert der Teufel
Composer(s): Meyerbeer
Text Author: Scribe, Delavigne
Participants:  Corps de ballet, unidentified;  Grover German Opera Company;  Karl Johann Formes (role: Bertram);  Theodore Habelmann (role: Raimbaut);  Theresa Wood [dancer-voc] (role: Elena);  Franz Himmer (role: Robert);  Edouard [bass-baritone] Haimer (role: Alberti);  Johanna Rotter (role: Alice);  Bertha Johannsen (role: Isabelle)


Review: New-York Times, 23 September 1862, 5.
“His [Formes’s] Bertram on Monday evening was a much steadier performance. Herr HABELMAN sang excellently as Lionel. Mme. ROTTER was by no means good; indeed we imagine the lady must have been in ill-health, so uneven and unsatisfactory were her efforts. Mdle. FREDERICI was pleasant, and acquitted herself to the satisfaction of the audience. . . . “An agreeable feature of the evening’s performance was an introduced dance by Miss Therese Wood, a charming and promising young danseuse.
Announcement: New York Herald, 17 September 1864.

Announcement: New York Herald, 18 September 1864.
“It will be remembered that Mr. Formes first appeared in this role here when Mr. Ullman brought him from Europe, and created an immediate sensation, since which he has been considered the best representative of the character that ever appeared here.  The opera can only be given once, as other arrangements preclude the possibility of repeating it.”
Advertisement: New-Yorker Staats-Zeitung und Herold, 18 September 1864.

Announcement: New York Herald, 19 September 1864.
“Therese Wood makes her first appearance in New York as Elena. . . . Robert will be given but this time.”
Advertisement: New York Herald, 19 September 1864.
“His [Formes’] First Appearance in New York in Six Years.”
Announcement: New York Post, 19 September 1864.
“[A] programme which cannot fail to be unusually attractive to a metropolitan audience.”
Advertisement: New-York Times, 19 September 1864.
“[T]he renowned basso, Karl Formes, who will make his rentree after an absence in Europe of six years.”
Announcement: New-York Daily Tribune, 19 September 1864.

Review: New York Herald, 20 September 1864.
“The Academy of Music was crowded to suffocation last evening.  On this occasion Manger Grover had all the doors open, but could not accommodate the thousands who wished to hear Meyerbeer’s grand opera. . . . The audience at the opening was a thoroughly fashionable one.  The boxes were all filled with ladies in grande toilette, in fact, the habituees of the Academy had turned out en masse, and the sight was truly brilliant. . . .
. . . In the arduous role of Bertram [Formes]evidently gave satisafaction to the audience, as he was much applauded.  Mr. Himmer has not quite recovered from his recent indisposition, and, therefore, it were unjust to criticize his performance. . . . The lesser role of Raimbaud was elevated to more than its usual importance by the excellent performance of Hablemann. . . .
The choruses and orchestra were remarkably effective, and the performance as a whole was certainly a success.
Review: New-York Daily Tribune, 20 September 1864.
“Operas hurried to the stage suffer just in proportion to the hurry.  Robert is mosaically written–we intend no pun.  How can it be interpreted under the wretched touch-and-go system which prevails.  The best is now done by managers, perhaps, that can be done, and which the public and the stockholders warrant.  Formes surprised his old admirers by the continued excellence of his tones, besides which he is a fist-rated actor–one of the men born for the stage.  The opera was refreshed by the introduction of a new danseuse, Miss Theresa Wood, who made a most favorable impression.”
Review: New-Yorker Staats-Zeitung und Herold, 20 September 1864.
A sold-out performance.  Carl Formes’ voice has lost its “wall shattering” strength.  Miss Rotter (Alice) excelled in her artistic skills rather then with the excellence of her voice.  Himmer did not fully fill the vocal requirements of his part (Robert), since he is still not completely recovered from his illness.  Highlights of the evening included the duet between “Bertram” and “Raimbaud” and the big trio in the second act.   The chorus, orchestra and ensemble still leave something to be desired.  The new dancer, Miss Wood, did very well.
Review: New York Post, 21 September 1864.
General review of the company.  “The ladies of this company merit a word of commendation for the marked improvement visible in their style of acting and singing since their first introduction to the American public.  If it were desirable to add a criticism, it would be to the effect that as a graceful and appropriate toilet is an essential part of stage business, violations of the rules of good taste mar the completeness of performances otherwise perfect.”
Review: New-York Times, 21 September 1864, 5.
“Several old favorites of our public made their rentrées in ‘Robert,’ Herr FORMES resumed his rôle of Bertram; Madame ROTTER was the Alice, and Herr HIMMER had sufficiently recovered from his recent indisposition to appear as Robert. In addition to these general features of the cast an interesting debutante appealed to the audience for its suffrages. The lady was Miss THERESA WOOD, who made her debut as Elena. The performance was especially good on the part of Herr FORMES, whose voice is still large, and whose acting is admirable. Herr HIMMER played with spirit, but his voice is still heavily veiled. Miss WOOD is a charming danseuse, and met with a distinct success.”
Review: Courrier des États-Unis, 24 September 1864.


    “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].”



Review: Dwight's Journal of Music, 01 October 1864, 319-320.
Mentioned in a general review of the season.  “Herr Himmer is evidently a thoughtful, earnest artist.  It is only to be regretted that his voice is not sufficient for the demands of his intelligence, though it might be rendered far more effective by a more open production of tone.  Nothing can be said against his conception and representation of character; as . . . Robert . . . his acting not unfrequently [sic] reaches the sublime. . . .
 . . Formes is still superb at times in Bertram. . . . But alas, that years of carelessness have in part destroyed an organ once so fine! . . .

‘Robert’ was put upon the stage after a single rehearsal and went indifferently as regards theatrical effects, in consequence.”
Review: Courrier des États-Unis, 03 October 1864.

     "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. . . . "