Maretzek Italian Opera: Dom Sébastien, roi de Portugal

Event Information

Academy of Music

Manager / Director:
Max Maretzek

Carl Bergmann

Event Type:

Record Information


Last Updated:
19 February 2019

Performance Date(s) and Time(s)

28 Nov 1864, 7:30 PM

Program Details

Scenery by H.W. Calyo.

Donizetti: Dom Sébastien, roi de Portugal
Includes: Incidental ballet [Ballet, unidentified] by Mlle. Ernestine and Mlle. Auriol

Performers and/or Works Performed

aka Dom Sebastian, King of Portugal; Dom Sebastien; Don Sebastian
Composer(s): Donizetti
Text Author: Scribe
Participants:  Maretzek Italian Opera Company;  Wilhelm [baritone] Müller (role: Ben-Selim, Governor of Fez);  J. [tenor] Reichardt (role: Don Antonio, brother of Sebastian);  Signor Lancioni (role: Don Enrico, Sebastian's Lieutenant);  Mlle. [dancer] Auriol;  Augustino Susini (role: Giovanni, grand inquisitor);  Signor Ximenes [tenor] (role: Don Luigi, Ambassador of Spain);  Domenico Lorini (role: Abayaldos, Arab chief);  Fernando [bass-baritone] Bellini (role: Camoens, the poet);  Carlotta Carozzi-Zucchi (role: Zayda, the African);  Bernardo Massimiliani (role: Sebastian, King of Portugal);  Mlle. Ernestine


Advertisement: New York Herald, 26 November 1864.
“Increased chorus and orchestra.” Includes synopsis of scenery.
Advertisement: New-York Times, 27 November 1864, 7.

Advertisement: New York Herald, 28 November 1864.
Background information about the opera is given. “Two hundred additional persons are heeded in the performance of Don Sebastian, the prices of admission will remain unchanged.”
Announcement: New York Herald, 28 November 1864.
“Don Sebastiano Again To-Night. This great opera will be repeated to-night with the same full cast, splendid scenery, costumes and dramatic force which made so decidedly success for it on Friday. Mr. Maretzek has embarked a moderate fortune in the production of this great work of Donizetti, and he deserves to be sustained in his laudable effort to rival the grand operas of Europe. If there be any fault in the way Don Sebastiano is presented at the Academy it is that it is too gorgeous. There is so much splendid pageantry, brilliancy of costume and rapid succession of dramatic effect, combined with music of rare excellence, that the mind becomes somewhat bewildered between the conflict of sight and sound. This is something, however, to which the public will become accustomed after hearing the opera a few times.”
Announcement: New-York Times, 28 November 1864, 4.
“We anticipate a perfect rendering of the work to-night, and a success even more marked and emphatic than that of Friday.”
Announcement: New-Yorker Staats-Zeitung und Herold, 28 November 1864.
Tonight, Donizetti’s ‘Don Sebastian’ will be given for the second time at the Academy of Music.  The direction has presented the opera in a quite respectable and deserving manner.  The decorations for the stage, which were originally painted for this work, are brilliant, especially the decoration for the finale, which, on its own, would deserve recognition as a work of art.  The departure of the king’s fleet at the end of the first act demonstrates theater effects unmatched by any stage productions until now.  The number of people in the big funeral march of the third act is extensive: pages with torches; soldiers; monks; chorus boys; musicians; tambours with black, decorated drums; the king’s battle horse, wearing a black saddle-cloth; canons adorned with mourning crapes; citizens; sailors; peasants; etc.   They fill the stage and present the sight of a lively public square being crossed by a funeral procession accompanied by the musical sounds of a requiem. Today’s performance of ‘Don Sebastian’ will certainly surpass Friday’s in precision and assurance.
“Synopsis of the scenery:  Act I.  The Departure – Port of Lisbon.  Act II. – Scene 1 – Interior of a Moorish Habitation.  Scene 2 – Battlefield of Selim – Kebir.  Act III. Scene 1 – Chamber of the Palace of Lisbon.  Scene 2 – The Funeral – Grand square of Lisbon.  Act IV. – Hall of the Inquisition.  Act V. Scene 1 – Chamber of the Grand Inquisitor in the Tower of Lisbon. Scene 2 – The Tower by Moonlight.”
Review: New York Herald, 29 November 1864.
“The second performance of Don Sebastiano last night impressed us still more favorably with Donizetti’s great work. The music improves vastly upon repetition. The artists also appear to greater advantage. A little more study has produced that familiarity with the parts which impart a sustaining confidence rarely found in the first performance of a grand work like this. Zucchi won considerably on the audience by the succession of fine dramatic passages which attach to the character of Zaida throughout every act. The audience, which was quite as large as on the opening night, warmed up more to and evidently appreciated the lyrical beauties of the opera. They seemed to receive it with more appreciation than was manifested on the second night of Faust last season, which afterwards attained such an extraordinary popularity, and we should not wonder if Don Sebastiano had quite as good a run as Gounod’s favorite masterpiece. The delightful romanza of Massimiliani, in the second act, was very enthusiastically encored, and the artist was called before the curtain. He sang his entire role infinitely better even than on Friday night. The Septette, in the council scene, fairly brought out the unlimited applause of the audience. It had to be repeated, and at the close of the act the artists were called out. Everything went off last night smoothly and quickly; the intermissions were brief, and in consequence the opera was over at eleven o’clock.
    Don Sebastiano will be repeated to-night.”

Review: New York Post, 29 November 1864.
“Don Sebastian was given last night at the Opera House for the second time in America, and there was a marked increase both in the efficiency of the performance and the appreciation of the audience. Massimiliani especially seemed to have recognised [sic] the necessity of doing better than he did on the opening night, and sang his exquisite romanza, Deserto in terra, so well as to elicit warm applause and a call before the curtain. The septet of the fourth act was encored, and the dead march gave eminent satisfaction.
The only weak point about Don Sebastian, as now given at the opera, is the ballet.  One swallow does not make a summer nor do two painstaking terpsichorean young ladies make a ballet in the real sense of the term.”
Review: New-York Times, 29 November 1864, 5.
“Academy of Music.—The repetition of “Don Sebastian” last evening was witnessed by a brilliant and crowded house. Many of those present had evidently attended the first performance, and the slight familiarity with the music thus occasioned led naturally to warmer demonstrations of pleasure than were indulged in on Friday. The best morceaux were received with great satisfaction, and notwithstanding the length of the opera, numerous encores had to be accepted by the artists. We are persuaded that the work will become exceedingly popular with our public. Less trivial than the majority of Italian operas, yet it possesses the melodic saliences [sic] of the school to which it belongs, and is important otherwise for many happy combinations and a rare and acceptable largeness of style. As a spectacular work, it is probably the best we have ever had placed upon the New-York stage. [Brief description of libretto, music, and plot.]
    The singers were in excellent voice, and gave much spirit to a performance which was generally enjoyed. Signora Zucchi sang with unusual dramatic effect. Signor Bellini has seldom been heard to such advantage, and the same may be said, in a less degree, of Signor Massimiliani and Signor Susini. The choruses were all very fine, and the orchestra all that could be desired.”

Review: Courrier des États-Unis, 29 November 1864.

"As we expected, the success of Don Sebastien yesterday was more decisive and straightforward than that of the first performance. This evening, they give this opera anew, which is on its way to the stars."