Maretzek Italian Opera: Ernani

Event Information

Academy of Music

Manager / Director:
Max Maretzek

Carl Bergmann

Event Type:

Record Information


Last Updated:
24 November 2015

Performance Date(s) and Time(s)

04 Oct 1865, 8:00 PM

Program Details

Marra’s first appeance with Maretzek Italian Opera Company.

Performers and/or Works Performed

Composer(s): Verdi
Text Author: Piave
Participants:  Maretzek Italian Opera Company;  Ettore Irfre (role: Ernani);  Giuseppe B. [basso] Antonucci (role: Silva);  Giuseppe Marra [tenor] (role: Don Carlos);  Carlotta Carozzi-Zucchi (role: Elvira)


Announcement: New-York Times, 02 October 1865, 4.

“Debut of a new baritone, Signor Marra.”

Advertisement: New-York Daily Tribune, 03 October 1865, 3.
Advertisement: New-Yorker Staats-Zeitung und Herold, 03 October 1865.
Advertisement: New York Post, 04 October 1865.
Advertisement: New-York Times, 04 October 1865.
Review: New York Post, 05 October 1865, 2.

The Opera.  The performance of ‘Ernani’ last night . . . seemed to be enjoyed by the participating artists as by the large and enthusiastic assemblage of listeners.   Seldom has the opera been better given here.  Zucchi as Elvira was in splendid voice, and was heartily encored in her opening air. Irfre, the tenor, sang with his characteristic taste, and also showed a power in the high notes that approached the robust school, and greatly excited the audience. Antonucci, the basso, had to repeat Infelice, and showed better than previously the noble qualities of his voice.

          A new baritone, one Signor Marra, last night made his first appearance before an American audience, and was well received. He has a very rich, powerful voice, which he has trained to produce notable contrasts. He can make a diminuendo with almost the finish of Brignoli. He acts intelligently and was throughout the opera a real success. The most perceptible fault in the newcomer is a tendency to over exertion of the voice. A singer with his vocal volume does not require to make any very vigorous effort to be heard.”

Review: New-York Times, 05 October 1865, 4.

Academy of Music.—There are rare occasions when the entire musical forces of the Academy seem to move of themselves, by an impulse alike irresistible and charming. This was certainly the case last evening when ‘Ernani’—fullest blooded of all Verdi's operas—was played for the first time this season. We cannot remember to have heard the work better performed.  The ensembles were admirable, and the singers without exception were in their best voice.  Mlle. Zucchi, who so far has been under the weather, shone forth last evening in pristine splendor.  Her voice was grand and profuse, and her acting perfectly fine. The new tenor Signor Irfre appeared to great advantage in the title-role.  He has a voice and style which improve rapidly on acquaintance, but we cannot help suggesting that if the gentleman would drag the time less frequently, it would not detract from the meritorious vigor and earnestness of his singing. Signor Antonucci, as Silva, revealed the quality and capacity of his voice finely in the Infelice, which has not been sung so well since the best days of Marini. The part of Don Carlos was sustained on the occasion by Signor Marra, who made his first appearance, and achieved a marked and merited success.  He has a fine baritone, full and sympathetic in quality, and of ample power even for the discouraging dimensions of the Academy—which, by the way, he did not seem to estimate accurately, and in consequence over-exerted himself to his own prejudice. Signor Marra's style is large and dramatic, and his ease on the stage and in the delivery of his voice indicate that he has had abundant experience. The debut was a complete success—perhaps the most prompt and unequivocal of the season.

          The applause during the evening was incessant, and led to many repetitions. The very large audience was not only satisfied but delighted. It was certainly the most enthusiastic one of the season.”

Review: New-York Daily Tribune, 05 October 1865.

“The opera of ‘Ernani’ was given to a crowded and very brilliant audience, and was altogether the most perfect performance, in all its parts, that we have heard on the stage for many years. Every critic will admit, nay assert, that the one great fault of ‘Ernani’ is over instrumentation. In other than ensemble pieces, and upon this point, Verdi, in days gone by, has been torn to pieces, cut up into impalpable slices, until what we was left of him was hardly worth picking up. And yet what a wealth of exquisitely passionate melody is found in each act; how they well up for voices and instruments, as though the composer had a superabundance of harmonious thoughts which he flung around him with a free hand upon his path. There are few operas extant in which rich melody is so abundant, not only in the arias and cavatinas, but in the choruses and in the ensemble pieces, the latter of which, in brilliant and massive effort have never been exceeded. Nor are these ensemble pieces mere clap-trap—a multiplying voice upon voice, and instrument upon instrument, their motives are singularly happy in their significance, and are worked up with masterly skill, and a breadth of manner superior to all the modern Italian writers. Of all Verdi’s works we prefer Ernani for the freshness and the earnestness of the melodies, the massive grandeur of its finales, and the thoughtful varied and delicate orchestration, which omitting the thunder-power brasses now and then, is masterly in its entire treatment.

          Mlle. Carozzi-Zucchi far exceeded all her previous efforts.  The fault which we have had occasion to allude to, namely her constant tremulousness of voice, the lack of power to hold a steady note in part of her voice, was hardly exhibited in a single instance last night. Her voice rose rich and sonorous, pure and steady, and she threw into her music a spirit and a power which gave it a marked vitality. She proved herself on this occasion an artist in the truest sense of the word, and both as a singer and an actress deserves the warmest critical applause.

          The tenor Irfre was fully equal to the arduous music of Ernani. It is a most trying role, but in all respects, he met the requirements without apparent fatigue or effort. He has frequent opportunity for displaying the best portion of his voice, and he used these opportunities to the best advantage. He has established his position by this performance.  Signor Marra, the new baritone, made a decided impression.  He has a fine, fresh voice, not so unctuously rich as that of the elder Amodio, but of a smooth, sweet quality, capable of the finest inflections, from the whispered to the emphatic emotion.  His voice is highly cultivated, and his style is pure, free from exaggeration, full of grace and sentiment, but at the same time animated and emphatic.  He is a graceful actor, and walks the stage with a free and confident step. In all respects he is a great acquisition to our operatic strength. In his first Aria he won a hearty encore, and in his duo with Zucchi, which was an admirable bit of singing, the same honor was confirmed amid deafening applause. The success of Signor Marra was decided, and fully deserved.

          Signor Antonucci fully sustained our estimate of him on his first appearance. His rich and beautiful voice was heard to the best advantage in music of the role of De Silva. His ‘Infelice’ was a fine specimen of dramatic vocalization, both in its purity of style and in its impassioned emphasis. It won a hearty and persistent encore, and was repeated to the delight of all present.  

          We have rarely heard the concerted music rendered with so much color and effect. The voices of Zucchi, Irfre, Marra, and Antonucci balanced well; no voice predominated in the frantic effort for prominency [sic]. In short, it was the most artistic singing since the time of Steffanone, Badiall, and Marini. With such singers, so fine and well-trained chorus, and so competent an orchestra, the sensitive but powerful hand of Carl Bergmann, it may be well imagined that the grand ensemble pieces were given with a force and precision far superior to what we have been accustomed to.  Such was the fact, and grander [illeg.] combination of vocal and [illeg.] rarely heard on the operatic stage.”

Review: New-Yorker Staats-Zeitung und Herold, 05 October 1865, 8.

Debut of the unknown singer Signor Marra as “Don Carlos.” He was received well, although he seemed indisposed. The quality and timbre of his voice recalls the once celebrated Signor Gassier. However, Gassier was a well accomplished singer whereas Signor is not quite there yet. He might be well on his way to become a “trembling baritone.”  Mme. Carozzi and Signor Irfre sang their parts as required by Verdi.

          Signor Antonucci is gaining in recognition, because he can be relied upon to give excellent performances.

          Generally the performance of the entire opera was well done. Mr. Bergmann led the Italian work with German confidence and attentiveness.

Article: New York Herald, 06 October 1865.

“The three new artists recently imported from Italy—a prima donna, tenor and basso—about whom there has been such a row got up, have been heard by the public for several nights, and even the organs of the opera have to admit that they are comparative failures. None of them surpass, or, indeed, equal, Kellogg. The organs are always apologizing for the shortcoming of the new artists, and it would appear that the only difficulty with them is to decide whether they are second rate or third rate singers.”