Maretzek Italian Opera: L’Africaine

Event Information

Academy of Music

Manager / Director:
Max Maretzek

Carl Bergmann

Event Type:

Record Information


Last Updated:
14 February 2017

Performance Date(s) and Time(s)

02 Dec 1865, 7:30 PM

Program Details

augmented chorus and orchestra

Performers and/or Works Performed


Advertisement: New-York Times, 25 November 1865, 7.
Announcement: New-York Daily Tribune, 28 November 1865, 3.

     Repeat of opera. 

Announcement: New-York Times, 02 December 1865, 4.
Advertisement: New-Yorker Staats-Zeitung und Herold, 02 December 1865.
Review: New-York Times, 04 December 1865, 4.

     “AMUSEMENTS. The ‘African’ on Saturday night attracted another splendid house—different in its elements, we need scarcely say, to the ordinary audiences, for Saturday has not yet been taken into the good graces of our fashionable theatre-goers.  The appreciation of this numerous jury served as another verdict in favor of Meyerbeer’s work. By prudently ignoring the demonstrations of the audience, and resisting many urgent demands for encores, the performance was brought to an end shortly after 11 o’clock. The entr’acts were unusually brief in view of the amount of work that had to be done on the stage. And the work, it must be added, is done thoroughly. It is no exaggeration to say that the ‘Africaine’ is the best produced opera ever given in New York.  The scenery is so good that Mr. Calyo, the artist, enjoys the pleasure of a nightly recall before the curtain. In other particulars, such as the costumes, appointments, the liberality of Mr. Maretzek is so conspicuous that he too is brought forward for a round of hearty applause. The artists are used to this kind of treatment and enjoy an excess of favor, being brought before the curtain after each act. In all respects, indeed, the warmth of approval is without parallel. No opera by Meyerbeer has ever been produced with such immediate acceptance on the part of the public.

     The performance on Saturday night was in every way admirable.  The singers were all in fine voice and the ensembles were rendered with the most perfect precision. The cast can hardly be improved. Signor Mazzolini’s [sic] grand declamatory style has full scope in the role of Vasco. The music lies easily within the range of his voice, displaying not only its force, but its capacity for the soft and tender expression of love. The first act and the fourth exhibit these contrasts in the happiest manner. Mme. Zucchi, as Selika, is suited with a part that reveals nothing but her excellencies. The lady  has not been heard to such advantage this season. Her powers are by no means over taxed by the difficulties of the music, nor is there so much of it that she is exhausted by the sustained effort of singing it. The dramatic opportunites are good, and they are seized, it is superfluous to say, successfully, by Mme. Zucchi. The role of Melusko is inferior to none in the opera, and its interpretation, musically and dramatically by Signor Bellini, raises it to an importance that can hardly be exaggerated. We have never heard this superb artist to greater advantage. His enthusiastic admiration of the work is well-known. He is one of the few who have studied it from beginning to end. The result is apparent in the intelligent and forcible rendering which he gives to the role, the masterly observance of all its nuances, and the irresistible power which he throws into its dramatic points. Mlle. Ortolani as Ines has some of the best and most popular themes of the opera allotted to her share, and delivers them well, although somewhat coldly. In the romanza of the first act, however, she substitutes a cadenza of her own for a very much better one by Meyerbeer--a change which we cannot regard as being for the better. We would suggest to this lady also, that a change of dress between the first and fifth acts would not be out of place. Signor Antonucci has the smallest part in the opera, but makes it weighty by his bearing.  His fine voice is very acceptable in the first and third acts. The orchestra, under Mr. Bergmann, has been increased in numbers, and is decidedly the best we have had at the Academy for many years. The admirable traits of the score are brought out with much clearness and delicacy. We have already referred to the wonderful ritornella of the fourth act, where twenty-seven instruments preserve exactly the same pitch, and produce an effect which has never before been heard in music. With extraordinary unanimity this strictly musicianly effect was encored on the first night, and enjoyed the same favor on Saturday. It demonstrates the fact that an average New-York audience is pretty much the same here as in Paris or London, where the same morceau led to a like result.

     The ‘African’ will of course be given to-night, and we may reasonably suppose with increased closeness and effect. There is barely room for material improvement, Mr. Maretzek’s rehearsals having been of the most complete and exhaustive character. Still, a day’s rest may impart additional strength to the voices, and increased familiarity with the score must, of course, be beneficial. When we remember the tremendous work of last week, it is really remarkable that the artists were in condition to satisfy and even surprise the public on the two nights of representation. There were no fewer than five general rehearsals—two being had on one day. Repetitions are of course in order on such occasions, many morceaux being given over and over again. Adding the performances to the number, we are certainly not far in saying that the music of the ‘African’ was sung and played at least fourteen or fifteen times. The mere fact shows how judiciously Meyerbeer has divided the parts. No one is overburdened.”

Review: New-York Daily Tribune, 04 December 1865, 4.

     “Musical. L’AFRICAINE AT THE ACADEMY. The second performance of Meyerbeer’s last work, ‘L’Africain,’ [sic] on Saturday evening was a wonderful improvement upon the first night, excellent as that was.  The artists, feeling more assured, labored less, and were thus enabled to attend more closely to the delicate and artistic points of their music.  A hundred new charms were thus developed which the audience seized on at once, appreciated and applauded to the echo.

     The enthusiasm of the public on the second performance was far greater than on the first night. The artists were recalled again and again; the scenic artist, Mr. Calyo, was compelled to appear and make his bow, and finally, Mr. Maretzek, was called for in a persistent manner, which admitted of no denial, so he came forward apparently bursting with speed, but he bowed frequently, smiled, and said nothing. L’Africaine will be repeated this evening.

     The press of political news and advertisements necessarily delays the publication of our review of L’Africaine.”

Review: New-Yorker Staats-Zeitung und Herold, 04 December 1865, 8.

     (…) This performance was even more successful than the first. We suggest that a Meyerbeer opera should be listened to more than once to recognize its beauty and the nuances of instrumentation.