Academy of Music
Manager / Director:
8 August 2011
“The Opera. POLIUTO AT THE ACADEMY—THE TRIUMPH OF THE SEASON. Besides being one of the most graceful of modern composers, Donizetti was one of the most prolific. Some of his works—Belisario, for instance—were given in that half forgotten era of the history of Italian music in America, when Palmo presided over the destinies of the Chambers street opera house, and when Borghese and Pico were the favorite vocalists. Yet one of the most prominent attractions promised for the opera season now in progress, is a work by this composer, called Don Sebastian, a five act lyric drama of great power and merit, yet utterly unknown here.
Midway between these two epochs, in which Donizetti so largely figures, comes the Poliuto, Les Martyrs of the French opera—a work containing many noticeable features, and first sung here by Piccolomini and Brignoli. Cortesi, Kellogg, and Medori, have since then assumed with success the part of Paolina, while different vocalists have appeared in the other characters.
But never, in this country at least, was this noble opera given with such superb ability and success as last night. In the first act Zucchi created a very great sensation in her aria and was trice recalled. Such a rare specimen of the most passionate and fervid, yet finished and elegant, solo singing has seldom been heard here. In the second act the dramatic situations Donizetti has clothed with some of the finest music which his genius has produced, and had he been living and at our opera house last night, he could not but have acknowledged that his grandest musical ideas had found in Bellini, Massimiliani, and Zucchi interpreters who did him and them full justice. The baritone showed points in the music of his role which few suspected had existed there before; the tenor unexpectedly manifested much of that vim and energy in which heretofore he has been deemed lacking; and the prima donna, in acting and vocalization, made the oldest opera goer wonder whether New York had ever before seen or heard so fine a lyric artist.
In the concluding act—shorn by the way of its opening chorus, as the second was of its opening duet—the admirable scene of the conversion of Paolina and the great duet Santa Melodia, again excited the audience to an unusual pitch of enthusiasm. The favorite strain was encored and the artists twice called out amid applauding cries. Orchestra and audience united last night in the applause, and all the artists seemed fully imbued with the confidence and sympathetic vigor of an assured triumph.
Of course, so great a performance, unveiling new beauties in an already favorite opera, must be repeated next week, and then those lovers of music who were not present last night will see for themselves that the strong terms of admiration we have here used are not misplaced or exaggerated.”
“A Lyric Triumph. As the drop curtain rose last evening at the Academy of Music, the audience little dreamed of the slumbering artistic power that existed behind it. The beauty of the classic scenes and costumes, the quivering lights and shades and the manifold groups of subordinates bespoke, in a measure, the imperial grandeur of the opera as it afterward unfolded itself; but who thought of seeing the placid conventionalism of the audience broken up into demonstrations of applause and fired into enthusiasm by the performance (hitherto beautiful rather than tragic) of Carozzi-Zucchi? Who thought of seeing the spirit of Rachel revived in her action and the electricity of Malibran condensed in her vocalization? Who expected to hear the multitudinous voices of a New York audience break upon her ears in a troubled ocean of applause? Yet so it was. A new magnetic link was forged last night between the prima donna and her hearers, which must give her an abiding place in their hearts.
The opera of ‘Poliuto’ is a living monument of the genius of Donizetti. To work into such musical expression the very lava of violent passions, the oscillations of religious feeling, and the conflict of domestic emotions, required all the boldness of genius and the conscious possession of positive gifts. In Carozzi-Zucchi, Paolina had all the freshness, breadth and life bestowed upon her by the Bergamasc composer. No character ever had a more breathing and vivid resurrection than Paolina in the truly artistic representation of Zucchi. The blood of the Roman woman seemed to tremble with renewed life in her Italian veins. Massimiliani, imbibing the spirit of his coadjutor, responded with unusual ability to her masterly singing and acting, and disclosed artistic qualities which, if followed up, will soon render him a favorite. Bellini, though not in this opera afforded full scope for the display of his great abilities, looked, acted and sang the part of Severus with unqualified success. Indeed, if the vocal torch should continue to burn as it did last evening, its light and heat must soon affect every lover of music in this great metropolis.”
“We hasten to get to Poliuto, which has never been performed in New York like it was Friday. For the first time, Mme.Carozzi-Zucchi has carried off a success at the height of her skill. In the finale of the second act, after the duet in the third, she was called back several times and saluted with frantic applause. But also what soul and what fine! What a singer and what a tragedienne! What energy and what feeling! When she sang the passage that replaces the famous verse of Corneille—I see, I know, I believe, I am undeceived—a veritable trembling ran through the entire house. It was indeed there, the Pauline dreamed of by the old tragedian and the composer, the enthusiastic woman flooded all of a sudden with a divine light, prepared to brave all for her new faith and happy to sacrifice all her human attachments to the heavens. Mme Zucchi was elevated to the height of the greatest lyric tragediennes one has ever applauded in Europe or America. The heroine also had a veritable ovation: An assembly of Quakers would have been electrified. They didn’t only throw bouquets—that kind of success is always prepared in advance—but they clapped their hands, they stamped, the ladies waved their handkerchiefs. The hall at Irving Place had never had such a celebration….With such a star, M. Maretzek can brave all storms; the name of Mme Zucchi on the poster will suffice henceforth to make a packed house.
It would be unjust not to render unto M. Massimiliani the part of the success that is due to him. Of all the roles that he has filled until now, Poliuto is the one that gives him the most honor. In the third act, Mme Zucchi communicated her passion to him, and the tenor, placed like the public under the sway of the great tragedienne, surpassed himself. Although he is not an actor, he is forced to act, when he has facing him a woman so completely embodied in her role that she would move the coldest [people,] and inflames those who give her a cue in spite of everything. Face, gestures, song, vocal inflections, everything about Mlle Zucchi carries you away, and her partners would have to be [made of] wood if they didn’t feel vibrating in themselves the animating tones of the admirable singer’s powerful inspiration.”