Grover German Opera: Don Giovanni

Event Information

Venue(s):
Academy of Music

Manager / Director:
Leonard Grover

Conductor(s):
Carl Anschütz

Event Type:
Opera

Record Information

Status:
Published

Last Updated:
23 July 2011

Performance Date(s) and Time(s)

27 Sep 1864, Evening

Program Details

American debut of Sophie Dziuba.

Performers and/or Works Performed

1)
aka Dissoluto punito, Il; ossia Il Don Giovanni Libertine Punished, The; or Don Giovanni
Composer(s): Mozart
Text Author: da Ponte
Participants:  Grover German Opera Company;  Sophie Dziuba (role: Zerlina);  Isidore [baritone] Lehmann (role: the Don);  Joseph Hermanns (role: Commendatore);  Edouard [bass-baritone] Haimer (role: Maestto);  Bertha Johannsen (role: Donna Anna);  Karl Johann Formes (role: Leporello );  Marie Frederici (role: Elvira);  Theodore Habelmann (role: Don Ottavio)

Citations

1)
Advertisement: New-York Times, 27 September 1862, 7.

“Mr. ISADORE LEHMAN . . . his first appearance since his arrival from Europe.”

2)
Announcement: New York Post, 24 September 1864.
With 2 new singers.
3)
Announcement: New York Herald, 25 September 1864.
“[T]he closing performance of Mr. Grover’s most successful season.”
4)
Announcement: New York Herald, 26 September 1864.
“To-morrow evening they give don Giovanni, with several new artists in the cast. . . . When it is recalled that this same German operatic troupe failed here last season the success of Mr. Grover’s venture is all the more noteworthy.  He has displayed great liberality and given to the enterprise that attention which, combined with the able musical direction of Mr. Carl Anschutz, has insured the popularity and success of the German Opera.  With artists—several of whom have taste and cultivation, but medium voices—an ensemble has been nevertheless formed.”
5)
Announcement: New-York Times, 26 September 1864, 4.

6)
Announcement: New-York Daily Tribune, 26 September 1864, 5.

7)
Advertisement: New-Yorker Staats-Zeitung und Herold, 26 September 1864.

8)
Announcement: New York Herald, 27 September 1864.

9)
Advertisement: New York Herald, 27 September 1864.
Cast, with full names.
10)
Review: New-York Times, 27 September 1864.
Amusements. ACADEMY OF MUSIC. Mr. GROVER’S short, but brilliantly successful season, came to an end last evening, when ‘Don Giovanni’ was played to an extremely intelligent audience. We have rarely heard the opera to better advantage. The various artists were all in grand voice, and displayed an easy familiarity with the music, which rendered its interpretation pleasant to all concerned. Herr FORMES was admirable as Leporello. It is one of his finest rôles. Herr HABELMAN was also excellent as the Count, and in the introduced aria of the first act, produced a genuine sensation. It was neatly phrased and artistically delivered. Mme. JOHANNSEN, as Donna Anna, sang with great spirit. The Zerlina of the evening was a debutante named DZIABA [sic]—a bright and intelligent blond, who is destined, we fancy to become a favorite with the public. Her voice is not powerful, but it is musical, and will improve with study and practice. Don Giovanni found a good dramatic representative in Herr LEHMAN—a gentleman who was formerly connected with the German stage, but who, possessing a good voice, has recently devoted himself to music. Herr LEHMAN has an agreeable organ, but it lacks power for so large a house as the Academy. He is, nevertheless, the best German Don Giovanni we have had on our stage. The orchestra and chorus were both in capital trim.”
11)
Announcement: Courrier des États-Unis, 27 September 1864.
Last performance of this work by the German Opera.
12)
Review: New York Herald, 28 September 1864.
“Musical. THE GERMAN OPERA. The last evening of the German opera was certainly a brilliant termination to a very successful season.  The Academy of Music was crowded, and the performance—Don Giovanni—passed off very pleasantly.  The new artists were received with favor.  Mlle. Dziuba, as Zerline, looked well and sang nicely.  This artiste will not cause any great sensation, but will appear very effectively in such parts as may be entrusted to her.  Karl Formes, in Leperelle, has a role in which he has so often obtained well merited triumphs that we need do no more here than state that he added to the number last evening.  Mme. Frederici, Mme. Johannsen, Habelman and Hermanns were all in excellent voice, and sang the opera much better than we have ever heard the German artists do it.”
13)
Review: New York Post, 28 September 1864.
“The German opera company gave an extra farewell performance at the Academy last night, the opera being ‘Don Juan,’ with Mlle. Dziuba, a freshly imported vocalist, as Zerlina. The young lady sings neatly and acts with intelligence; and in the lighter soprano parts will prove satisfactory. Mr. Lehmann, another new comer, who has a melodious though not powerful baritone voice, was the Don, and Carl Formes gave his original and remarkable delineation of the part of Leporello. The opera was an entire success, and was listened to by a large and gratified audience.”
14)
Review: New-Yorker Staats-Zeitung und Herold, 28 September 1864.
The performance and the casting of the roles was very good under the circumstances (four big operas have been staged within 14 days.)  Formes, Hermanns, Habelmann, Johannsen and Friedrich gave Mozart’s masterpiece the attention it deserves.  Mr. Lehmann should be praised for the cultivation of his voice during his stay in Germany.  His acting, though, has not changed and it is lacking the lightness, carefree nature, and gentlemanlike behavior of the Don Juan.  He is, however, a good addition to the ensemble.  Mrs. Djiuba lacks the quality of voice (freshness, pleasantness) needed for the part of Zerlina.  After initial concern about the German Opera due to a number of unpleasant circumstances, this season turned out to be a successful one, and the future of the company seems, therefore, secure.  It is not yet clear if the German Opera Company will be performing in the spring.
15)
Review: New-York Daily Tribune, 29 September 1864, 5.
Title: “The Opera—1864.”  “This was the year when, if not sooner, grass was to grow in the streets of New York.  Especially those places devoted to luxury, pure and serene.  Irving Place, by the Academy, ought accordingly to have gone to grass.  But we do not perceive it.  The friction of wheels between wheels has never been more intense than on the stones during the Opera night of Mr. Grover’s season, just expired.  It was something wonderful to behold.  We were reminded of the panem et circem over again.  Come what will, the public must be amused.  Amused—that’s the current word—but what a low mission of art to merely amuse.  Mr. Grover is a most enterprising man. . . . [N]ever with the German language has such fortune attended the Opera here, and never with any language have there been larger audiences.”
16)
Announcement: New York Clipper, 01 October 1864, 198.
Announces that this is the last performance of the current German opera series.
17)
Review: Dwight's Journal of Music, 01 October 1864, 319-320.

COMMENT: Excerpts from this review have been attached to individual events.

“Mr. Grover, manager of the German Opera, opened the musical season with Gounod’s ‘Faust.’  The great interest, and overflowing attendance, with which the public in general has received the performances of the German opera troupe, is justified by the improved management displayed.  Mr. Anschutz, though completely at home at the conductor’s desk, and there scarcely surpassed by any one in energy and capability, is not suited to the position of manager.  The costumes and decorations are much superior to the former mise en scene of the company; chorus and orchestra strong in proportion, and very effective under Anschutz’s baton.  But to ensure the future of the German Opera, all flavor of dilettantism about it must be done away with, and some of the voices replaced by better and fresher ones; for singers of good will and little voices are not sufficient. If Mr. Grover succeeds in this, his will be the merit of having grounded a lasting existence for German opera in this country, and that in spite of clique and cabal and plot and counterplot; nor will he find his reward in pecuniary success alone, but also in the thanks and recognition of those to whom the welfare of art, in all its varied phases, is dear.

    The troupe consists of the following artists: Mme. Frederici, who possesses a fresh, powerful, sympathetic, and sufficiently extensive soprano voice.  Her execution is still imperfect, and her formation of tone not yet all that can be desired.  The character in which she pleased us best was that of Agatha in Der Freischütz [sic]; she gave the great scena, and especially the prayer, with remarkable inspiration, and the most correct taste.  As Margarethe in ‘Faust,’ we consider her superior to all who have appeared in that character here, and when her acting has gained a little more finish—if it may, without  losing its charming naturalness, and without falling into conventionality—she is sure of success everywhere in this part.  She is wrong to undertake parts lying in so low a register as that of Nancy, in ‘Martha;’ she cannot render them with effect, and no voice can be forced out of its natural compass without evil consequences.

    Mme. Johannsen is a pains-taking artist; but she pleases us more in serious than in comic parts; in the latter her voice and acting display somewhat of triviality.  But for parts such as that of Rachel in the ‘Jewess,’ which requires immense power, her voice is no longer reliable enough, although her efforts are not altogether unsuccessful.

    Mme. Rotter is also a zealous artist; somewhat too zealous, perhaps; for we suspect that a noticeable deterioration of voice since her first appearance here may be in part owing to her over-exertions as an actress.

    Fräulein Canissa possesses a good voice and a bad method, and too often sings false besides.  Her conception of character is superficial.

    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 Eleazar in ‘The Jewess,’ as Robert, as Faust, his acting not unfrequently [sic] reaches the sublime.

    Herr Habelmann possesses a flexible organ, sympathetic, and sufficiently powerful tenor voice, a good method besides, and knows how to make a careful use of his natural and acquired resources.  If we have a fault to find with this artist, it is that he occasionally oversteps the boundaries of good taste. His acting is also good.  As the representative of Lyonel in ‘Martha,’ and Max in Der Freischütz, he leaves nothing to be desired.

    Every one knows what Karl Formes is, or at least what he was.  Formes is still superb at times in Bertram, Plunkett, etc.  But alas, that years of carelessness have in part destroyed an organ once so fine!  Can the singer who possesses a truly noble voice, show himself too heedful in his use of it? For the human instrument is no drum, whose skin, when worn out, may be renewed at pleasure.

    Herr Hermanns is in stage appearance, acting, and voice so excellent a representative of Mephisto, that it would be difficult to imagine a more complete embodiment of the hero of the cloven foot.  But in rôles taxing more especially the singer’s powers, Herr Hermanns want of method, the close quality of his upper tones, a lack of decision in the lower ones, and his habit of gliding a third, a fifth, sometimes even an octave in attacking certain tones, renders his good bass voice comparatively ineffective.

    Herr Steinecke is a useful member of the company; although possessing little voice; but his intelligent acting partly atones for that deficiency, in characters of secondary importance.

    As we have already said, the chorus and orchestra are excellent; indeed the chorus singers merit especial praise for their lively, careful, natural singing and—acting!

    The operas given by Mr. Grover’s company during the representations of two weeks have been ‘Faust,’ ‘Martha,’ ‘Der Freischütz,’ Robert le Diable,’ ‘The Jewess’; and ‘Don Giovanni’ is promised for this (Tuesday) evening, with two new singers lately arrived from Europe,—Fräulein Djiuba and Herr Lehmanns—in the cast.  Quite a good repertory for so short a season.

    The most complete performance was that of Der Freischütz; whose old yet ever new, soulful melodies proved their divine origin by their effect on all hearts not yet blasés.  ‘Robert’ was put upon the stage after a single rehearsal and went indifferently as regards theatrical effects, in consequence.  The second performance was altogether an improvement on the first.  ‘Faust’ is still the public favorite, and the commonplace soldiers’ chorus is still encored, to the horror of musical ears.  In consequence of Himmer’s illness, an Italian tenor, Tamaro, undertook the part of Faust with success.  ‘The Jewess’ was much cut, and on the first performance might have gone more smoothly; its great music, too, almost necessitates voices of immense power; but notwithstanding the need of them in the three principal parts, still from the dramatic talent of the artists engaged, the representation was an effective one.”

18)
Announcement: Dwight's Journal of Music, 01 October 1864, 319-320.
“‘Don Giovanni’ is promised for this (Tuesday) evening, with two new singers lately arrived from Europe,—Fräulein Djiuba and Herr Lehmanns—in the cast.”
19)
Review: Courrier des États-Unis, 03 October 1864, 2.
General remarks on the season of German opera, in general not too positive. Federici is “delicious as in Faust… she has the traits of the Marguerite dreamed by Goethe, and has that complexion, rich and chaste at the same time, which the lovers of Germanic blond beauties like so much... Mme. Johansen is a better musician (than Frederici) but her voice is not as good. She reveals herself as a talented singer whenever she sings pianissimo, but she fails when full force is needed. She wasn’t bad in Martha, but less than acceptable in La Juive. We cannot understand why she wore a Grecian robe when she is supposed to be characterized as a Jewish woman from the Middle Ages” (there are also comments on Hermann’s choice of costume). “Rotter has some qualities and many defects. Her voice is often unequal and veiled. She sings in spasms. She is at her best in Martha. This opera is by far the best of the company’s repertory, and also the one that attracts the fewest people. Perhaps the public is tired of Flotow’s charming potpourri, but we reckon that is good to have a break from the execrable mis-en-scènes that stage directors other than Grover produce.” The reviewer then seems to apologize for being too severe in his remarks about the German opera company, and adds that he supports the creation of a German opera, adding that “if we make such remarks about the singers it is because we want them to overcome their faults.”