Academy of Music
Proprietor / Lessee:
James M. Nixon
Manager / Director:
James M. Nixon
Price: $1 all seats
20 May 2013
“On Saturday morning Miss Carlotta Patti made the adieux of her brief but brilliant first season on the lyric stage to a crowded and enthusiastically good natured house at the Academy of Music. The opera selected for this occasion was “Lucia di Lammermoor,” in which Miss Patti had appeared the evening before, and which was rendered all the more satisfactorily by herself and by the whole corps for what may be considered fairly enough as a preliminary grand rehearsal. We feel bound, however, in commending as we most heartily do, the successful courage of Miss Patti, her friends and her impresario, in thus bringing her forward upon a new arena of triumphs, to repeat our verdict, given after her début in the rôle of Amina, that her lyrical future belongs essentially to the airy and peaceful, rather than to the intense and passionate school of art. In saying this we imply no censure, remember, for we simply indicate a vocation. To ask a prima-donna worthily to interpret for us the flutter of Zerline in the coils of the tempter, the enchanting coquetry of Rosina, the simple pathos of Linda, the rustic despair of the slandered Amina, is to offer her one of the most charming and brilliant careers possible upon the stage. That Miss Patti, whether as singer or actress, is scarcely equal to the lyrical and the dramatic force of Lucia, was sufficiently evident on Saturday, though her conception of the character was good, and her execution of the music, save in certain particulars which deserve kindly notice, was brilliant and accurate. The quality of Miss Patti’s voice betrays her, in passages which demand extreme frankness and fullness of declamatory emotion, into a shrillness which sometimes (as was the case very notably in the trio on Saturday) amounts to positive thinness and wiriness. She is apt, too, to exhaust her force too rapidly on the earlier phrases of an air, and though this mistake may be possibly to due to the circumstance that, in passing from the concert room to the stage, Miss Patti has not yet learned to measure accurately the immense increase of the demand which the latter makes upon the strength and sustained volume of the voice over the former, it is a perilous mistake, which must lead to very bad effects, unless it be corrected in time, as it very easily can be.
It is the fashion and the misfortune of our times to think that everything is possible— or, as the popular maxim puts it, that “some things can be done as well as others.” Nothing can be more absurd in life, or more fatal in art, than the notion that anybody who will, can become an artist as easily as a bricklayer—or a soldier as easily as a member of Congress. We have ridden the notion nearly to death here in America, and it may be hoped that it is now on its last legs, and under the pressure of stern realities will disappear in due time. We may own, therefore, that our first impressions were adverse to the probability that Miss Patti could be successfully added to our choir of American operatic singers, merely because she had a fine voice, a charming method, and a hereditary aptness to the vocal art. We doubted the result of the experiment, believing that the complete freedom of physical movement which the lyric stage demands must be unattainable by a lady whose physical misfortunes the public were familiar with, and all of us deplore. The progressive ease and grace which have marked Miss Patti’s bearing upon the stage during the few occasions of her appearance in opera, have gone far to disabuse us of these impressions. She is evidently and rapidly commanding a facility and vigor of movement, which need only to become a confirmed habit, as unconscious as confirmed, to make her entirely at home in her new sphere. On Saturday, for instance, the movements of Lucia were to the full as unconstrained as those of Edgardo, although we believe Signor Brignoli owes nothing to art in respect of his locomotive powers. There may be cynical persons who will suspect us here of damning Miss Patti’s carriage with faint praise. To all such we can only reply “Honi soit qui mal y pense.” We mean to praise our lovely debutante warmly, and to congratulate her cordially on the successful beginning of what we trust may be a long and brilliant career.
Nor let us dismiss Signor Brignoli and the rest of her supporters, on Saturday, without a word. The prime tenor was in splendid voice on Friday as well as on Saturday, and on Saturday in particular sang at times with an emphasis and a serious attempt at dramatic vigor and fire, which fairly astonished us. With a few drops of blood from the veins of Signor Stigelli, what might not Brignoli accomplish with unsurpassed organ of his, so full, so pure, so refined in tone, so mellow in quality! Signor Ardavani has more reason to quarrel with stepmother Nature than the fortunate tenor, but it deserves to be said for him that he made the best of his resources in Lucia, and notwithstanding a constant tendency to express the most serious emotions of life with the unconcerned air of a fat-cheeked chair [sic]-boy, bawling out responses, contributed very materially to the success of one of the best representations of Lucia which New-York has in recent times enjoyed. The orchestra, barring a disposition to drown the vocalists at all the critical moments, was well managed and effective in the delicious accompaniments which distinguish this charming opera.
On the whole, the reminiscences of Saturday and Friday dispose us to pardon Mr. Nixon for promising us a new season this week, to consist of one night only. The average season of opera in New York resembles the average reign of a Pope in the middle ages. Happy the musical Hildebrand for whom his fortune and his will reserve a twelve years’ pontificate and the permanent establishment of a real operatic hierarchy!
Why should not Mr. Nixon resolve to make himself this man?
At the moment, we see no other very seductive hope. The Maretzek troupe is a Southern mirage, the reality rejoicing the hearts of the lemon-colored Habanese. Mr. Ullman bring back from Europe neither Titiens [sic] nor even Ristori, whose advent, by the way, however interesting in itself, would probably have giveen the finishing blow to opera for the year. Our present resource is evidently the hero of Cremorne, who, with a clean house, a decent, domestic police, a well-organized orchestra, a fresh chorus, and the best singer he can capture, ought to be able to make a success for himself and a real 'season' for New-York.”