Academy of Music
Manager / Director:
29 August 2018
“Tonight Auber’s ‘Fra Diavolo’ will be given for the third time.”
“[C]onsiderable improvements in many of the parts upon its last presentation. Lotti sang and acted with more vigor. Lorini’s voice was restored, rendering the part of Lorenzo more acceptable, which, though a very small one, is yet indispensible in many of the concerted passages. Of Miss Kellogg’s Zerlina nothing more can be said than that she acts and draws the part well, and that it is exceedingly adapted to her vocal capacity. Her reception last night was genial and kind. She was encored in two or three songs very cordially. The brigands, Dubreuil and Weinlich, by their admirable acting, gave life to the opera throughout.”
“The opera steadily increases in public favor, and will remain the attraction until the close of the season on Saturday next. It is just the sort of work to add cheerfulness to the season. The music is light, graceful and melodious.”
“The weather was too unpleasant, last evening, for the dainty habitués of the opera, and the attendance in consequence was anything but good. ‘Fra Diavolo’ was given for the third time, and as frequently happens on such occasions with rare spirit and effect. All the artists were in good voice, and the performance elicited much applause, and passed off most agreeably.”
“The future entrepreneurs of comic opera in New York should be highly satisfied with the results of the performance of Fra Diavolo at the Academy of Music; the success was complete, and there is no doubt that this opera, executed with complete respect for tradition, should succeed even more. As it was given by M. Maretzek, it produced the greatest pleasure, and there isn’t a French person in New York who wouldn’t go to revive himself and to recover France in the sounds of this delicious music.
We won’t do our readers the injustice of analyzing Fra Diavolo for them. We will content ourselves with saying a few words to them about the interpretation. As we feared, M. Lotti is inadequate; not only does he lack the manner and doesn’t resemble in the least the polished brigand who has become legendary, but he appears not even to understand the music he’s singing. He is very inferior in the first-act duet, where he pays court to the lovely Englishwoman in order to carry off her portrait surrounded by diamonds; he sings the ravishing serenade in the second act, Agnés la Jouvencelle, without the slightest nuance; he dies in the better half of the great air of the third act, etc., etc….
Mlle Kellogg, devoted to Zerlina roles, is charming, and vocalizes, admirably, the air in the second act which, if our memory is correct, was borrowed from the Serment of Auber; she relates—one could not do it better—to the pretty scene in which she gets undressed, but one sees that she never has understood how to sing the famous ballad with the nuances the composer indicated.
We arrive at the heroes of the repetition of Fra Diavolo, at the artists who have obtained the most success, and with justice. We wish to speak of M. Bellini and of Mlle. Morensi. The first revealed himself a consummate comedian in the role of Lord Allcash, and with this affinity Mlle Morensi was at her height. Not only did M. Bellini show himself an excellent actor, but he also sang the role as it ought to be, modifying his vocal habits, his intonations and even the timbre of his voice. In front of the French, M. Bellini and Mlle Morensi were sure of a dazzling success. We will make only one observation: the “patter songs” [couplets syllabés] of the first act should be sung a bit faster than they were at the first performance. The tempo which was indicated or imposed on M. Bellini and Mlle Morensi was not the real one. Since we are on this topic, we will add that M. Bergman [sic], perhaps for compensation, caused the first-act finale to be sung too fast, which on the first day lost all its character in this unwonted rapidity. We are certain that M. Predigam, whose advice should be the authority for the staging and the performance of Fra Diavolo, had not been consulted. A man who upholds the traditions of Auber himself would not indicate such tempos. Let us say in finishing that MM. Dubreuil and Weinlich were quite suitable for the roles of Beppo and Giacomo.
To sum up, as an ensemble, the performance is good without being irreproachable. It is already a great deal, and that’s one reason why M. Maretzek persists in the path he has chosen. We recall the time when one imagined that French opera-comique would not have been able to succeed in New York in the least. The contrary is proven today, and we believe likewise that the public will end up preferring this genre to one which, in place of charming the listener, tires him in demanding of him an attention too unremitting and a perpetual tension of mind. In any case, we will have a great variety at the Academy, which is the essential condition for a lasting success.”
“Maretzek’s Italian Opera season at the Academy continues. Max has not had a brilliant success of it, although we do not believe he has been ‘ruined’ by the series of operas given. Last week was announced as the ‘last of the season,’ but at the same time the programme for the current was published. A curious people are these opera folks.”