Academy of Music
Manager / Director:
29 August 2018
“M. Irfre, who doesn’t have the time to please everyone, is, in our eyes, as we’ve said, an excellent tenor, all the better as he has the art of shading [nuances]. Here is why we talk about this. Last year, M. Maretzek had the good idea of mounting Fra Diavolo. Unfortunately, his tenor was very inadequate, and although the other roles were well supported, this masterpiece of graceful and elegant music did not at all have the success that it should have had. This year, all the artists who have created Fra Diavolo, except M. Lotti and Mlle Morenci, again are part of the Italian company; why wouldn’t M. Maretzek have entrusted the role of Fra Diavolo to M. Irfre, and that of the Englishwoman to Mlle Phillips? We are persuaded that Mlle Kellogg, with whom the character of Zerline agrees marvelously, would be enchanted to take up again the piece in which she was so charming.”
“First time this season of Fra Diavolo. Sig. Mazzoleni, for the first time as Fra Diavolo.”
“Auber’s charming opera of ‘Fra Diavolo,’ with all the new pieces and recitatives, will be re-newed here to-night. It was the popular favorite of last Winter, and no doubt will be acceptable this. The caste [sic] is the same as before, with the very important exception that Signor Mazzoleni replaces Signor Lotti in the title-role.”
Sold out event. Mazzoleni was excellent.
“. . . . Let’s say right off that Auber’s masterpiece created a full house: they squeezed into the hallways; the spectators were huddled together in the pit; the parquet was adorned with the most radiant attire. French music had a beautiful day of triumph; we are convinced more than ever that French comic opera, represented by works such as le Domino Noir, le Pré aux Clercs, Zampa, etc., is a genre destined to have a formidable rivalry here with Italian and German music.
It’s not that the production of Fra Diavolo, although infinitely superior to that of last year, was irreproachable. One perceived, from time to time, that the artists and the orchestra hadn’t mastered the tradition; some tempos were changed, the finale of the second act is truncated. Nevertheless, the public had the occasion to be satisfied, and the ensemble deserved the success it obtained.
There’s no comparison between M. Lotti, who played Fra Diavolo last year, and M. Mazzoleni, who is charged with the role this year. There’s a distance between the two tenors that would render all parallels ridiculous. However, we won’t stop calling M. Mazzoleni to account on several items: excellent in the first act, above all in the trio with the bandits, , he didn’t maintain the same high level in the second act; he tried in vain, his voice, perfect for great brilliance and powerful effects, doesn’t lend itself easily, or become manageable, in cantabile passages. We took proper notice of this while M. Mazzoleni was rendering the delightful serenade Agnès la Jouvencelle. Fra Diavolo, who sings under the pretext of warning his accomplices, should naturally moderate his voice, because he knows that everybody at the inn is asleep, and he doesn’t want to wake up anyone; let’s add that this serenade loses half its melodic value when it isn’t sung at half-voice. In spite of his efforts, M. Mazzoleni had some notes that were way too loud, above all in the higher range. He didn’t interpret the third verse of the ballad in the first act according to the tradition and the composer’s intention, either. Fra Diavolo hasn’t the least intention of alarming Zerline; the man-of-the-world ruffian doesn’t think about being a bogeyman, and the singer should aim at irony much more than at terror. Would that M. Mazzoleni return to the meaning of the words, which are courteous and almost jolly, and he will be convinced that he has given his verse a seal of melodrama that it doesn’t possess. We were looking forward to the great tenor aria in the second act, which he mimicked perfectly and sang passable, except for an unfortunate turn which spoiled his success. If we criticize M. Mazzoleni in such detail, it’s because we consider him a worthy artist; we wish that he would accept our opinion with the same spirit in which we express it.
Let’s move on to Mlle Kellogg. This charming singer plays her role with as much gracefulness as Mlle Lefevre performed it in Paris, and she sings it better, being gifted with a greater clarity of voice and possessing a better method of vocalization. We looked for some criticism to direct toward the young artist, and we didn’t find any. We said last year that Mlle Kellogg was a little precious and mannered; she’s corrected these faults this time.
Mlle Stockton, who has succeeded Mlle Morensi in the role of Pamela, certainly won’t make her predecessor be forgotten. Here we look for something to praise, and we don’t find anything, unless we praise the effort, but that remains unnecessary. We were looking to seeing Mme Phillips, but the cold that she was already suffering from in Rigoletto doubtless prevented her from appearing on the stage on Friday.
M. Bellini reprised again the role of the English mylord with success. He doesn’t sing the aria from le Serment that he formerly interpolated into the opera, and we regret that. As for his acting, M. Bellini should watch out for exaggeration, which he falls into quite often, notably at the end of the second act. MM. Barili and Dubreuil are two amusing rascals, and M. Muller, in the role of the innkeeper, contributes to the ensemble. M. Lorini suffered himself to put up with it. The orchestra and chorus are worthy of the score they were charged with: only, in the name of the muses and of M. Auber, why hurry the tempo of the last half of the second act, to the point of rendering it unrecognizable?
All of our trifling criticism finished, we only have to avow that Fra Diavolo has succeeded this year much more fully than last year. May M. Maretzek, encouraged by this success, be able to draw freely upon the repertoire of our Auber, our Hérold and our Michel and our Boieldieu! There’s an inexhaustible mine there to take advantage of, and the first impresario to set upon it vigorously will assure himself of richer products than those of the California gold-diggers.”