Maretzek Italian Opera: Crispino e la comare

Event Information

Academy of Music

Manager / Director:
Max Maretzek

Angelo Torriani

Event Type:

Record Information


Last Updated:
29 August 2018

Performance Date(s) and Time(s)

25 Oct 1865, 8:00 PM

Performers and/or Works Performed


Announcement: New-York Daily Tribune, 23 October 1865, 3.
Announcement: New York Post, 25 October 1865.
Advertisement: New-York Times, 25 October 1865.
Advertisement: New-Yorker Staats-Zeitung und Herold, 25 October 1865.
Advertisement: New-York Daily Tribune, 25 October 1865.
Review: New York Post, 26 October 1865, 2.

“The second performance . . . last night was a marked improvement on the first night, as far as relates to the scenic effect.  As to the vocal department it was again thoroughly satisfactory.  The concerted piece, Quanti baci, and the Doctor’s Trio were again encored.

          The charming representation by Miss Kellogg of the leading part is the more to be commended from the fact that she has never seen the opera performed, and her conception of the character of Annetta is entirely original.  It is difficult to imagine a better representation of it.”

Review: New-York Times, 26 October 1865, 5.

Academy of Music.—The second performance of ‘Crispino e la Comare’ took place last evening. We may say of it that it was thoroughly enjoyed by an audience that did not display any prepared familiarity with the pet pieces, but picked them out with promiscuous discretion and the most perfect of appreciation. There are few comic operas that offer so many temptations to the ordinary listener. The music is perfectly fluent and graceful; the melodies are clearly defined and agreeable; the ‘patter’ songs are not too abundant, and the combinations are effective without being overwrought. There is in the first act an occasional touch of the old school, which comes quaintly and pleasantly, but which never descends to the level of boredom. Otherwise the opera is singularly fresh and vital.

            There can be no doubt that it is a treat to hear this vivacious and elegant work sung as it is by Mr. Maretzek's artistes. Every part appears to have been written for the person who sustains it. From the charming coquetry of Miss Kellogg down to the somber platitudinousness [sic] of Mme. Ficher; from the nervous sarcasm of Sig. Bellini down to the pompous inanity of Sig. Marra, nothing could well be improved.  Sig. Rovere is an admirable Crispino.  His voice is still sufficiently good for the music that is allotted to it, whilst the closeness, humor and propriety of his acting are really beyond praise. The introduction to the finale of the second act, and the whole of the third act, are ample illustrations of these statements.

            The encores were preemptory, and rather too numerous. For instance, we accept the terzetto of the third act as an admirable piece of writing, but it is somewhat tiresome to have its melodic subject repeated five times, as it was last evening. Signor Bellini was, to be sure, very admirable, and Signor Rovere maintained his ground fairly with him, but—when each gentleman has merely to sing the same few bars—it seems absurd to encore both, especially when the measure is repeated, advantageously and intentionally in the concluding tutti. It is unprofitable, however, to quarrel with success. A free and independent citizen has the right to encore whatever he pleases—and in this opera he uses the privilege pretty freely.

            ‘Crispino’ has been brought out under the direction of Signor Torriani, who presides in the orchestra with quiet and affective ability.  The perfection of the musical performance, and we can hardly apply any other word to it, says all that need be said of his sufficiency.  The mise-en-scene is intolerable—the last scene being really childish in the poverty of invention, and mediocrity of execution displayed in it.”

Review: New-York Daily Tribune, 26 October 1865.

“The production of a new opera, or, at least, an opera new to this country, would 20 years ago, have created a positive and perceptible excitement in the city. Then New-York was measurably innocent, and found excitements in the public amusements; now, on the contrary, we have become blasé; we have grown old in the semblance of art, and we fail to recognize, with rare exceptions, the genius which flashes here, if unendorsed by European reputation, and we let pass that which we should cherish and be proud of, until, by repeated triumphs, it makes itself felt, and literally compels an acknowledgment on its own merits. So on Tuesday the announcement of a new opera made no visible sensation in our social circles; the Opera house was well-filled, but excitement there was none, until, act by act, the genius of the actors and the telling beauties of the music aroused the passive and frosty audience unto a point of enthusiasm which is rarely attained.  This is one of the triumphs of art, and Ricci’s opera, ‘Crispino e la comare’ achieved it against many odds, for, after all, it is only a comic opera.

            The Riccis did many good things, which will come up again after many years, and renew their name with additional strength and estimation. Both broathers are dead now that the Old World and the New World hear testimony to the genius of the authors of the ‘Scarramucia’ [sic] and ‘Crispino e la Comare.’

            The plot of the opera is very slender, all the force and telling points being found in the details. [A plot summary follows]

            The real downright fun of the opera consists in the jealousy of the two regular Doctors, who protest against the quack Crispino, but are beaten by him upon every point, and the musical illustration by the Riccis, and the inimitable personations by Rovere and Bellini exceed in breadth of humor and positive fun any representation that we have seen on the operatic boards for years.

            The music is charming in all respects; it is everyday life music, never soaring into the sublime, a point which few in reality achieve, but possessing a tender turn of sentiment, and an imagination brimming over with genuine humor and perfectly irresistible fun. It will only be necessary to mention as an illustration of this admirable humorous facility, the trio of Doctors in the third act; there is nothing in the whole range of comic opera more broadly humorous, and, at the same time, so full of character and so replete with melody. The music for this opera sustains its character from the beginning to the end; it is light and flippant, if you please, but it is all well composed, and its very platitudes are calculated to heighten the brilliancy and the dash which are sure to follow. The character of the wife is frivolous and coquettish, and how admirably the volatile music assimilates to the character. Crispino is at once a humorist and a grumbler, and the music indicates his character, even his terror, though real, being highly and dramatically grotesque. And then Doctors, how the knee-breeches, powdered wig, and gold-headed cane, stand out in every phrase of their rôles.

            We do not assume for this music any higher position than it merits. It is lower in grade, very far, than ‘Il Barbierre’ [sic], and less massive than the comic operas of Donizetti, but in genuine humor, in rollicking fun, in its adaptation to character, in its flirting brilliancy, in its cleverness of construction, and in its light, dashing and effective instrumentation, it is second to none. Offenbach’s admirers may dispute for him possession of the palm. At any rate, it is a thoroughly enjoyable opera, one to which one can listen over and over again, and laugh and admire it at the last as heartily as at the first.           

            Rovere, the Crispino of the occasion, is a master of his art. Age has not dimmed his faculties, nor robbed him one spark of that broad yet chastened humor, which he has made his reputation as a buffo singer known and respected for years.  His voice lacks the strength and freshness of youth, but his intonation is always and infallibly true, and his pronunciation, which is wonderfully distinct, is a model of purity and refinement. His acting is grotesque without being absurd or a travestie, and while he compels from the audience shouts of laughter, he at the same time wins their admiration and respect for a great artist.

            The serious Bellini, the applauded hero of a hundred cantabile movements, is, after Rovere, the best buffo singer that we have on the operatic stage.  He has more of the vigor and sprightliness of youth in him, but he is just as artistic, while being as fully broadly humorous, and as earnest in the development of his character. These two admirable artists acted up to each other with so much vigor, and such a semblance of reality, that the living querulous, disputatious men stood revealed before us. The effect was such as might be conceived—they carried their audience with them, and pursued their labors to the end amid roars of laughter and shouts of applause.

            Miss Louisa Kellogg as Annette has established the fact that she can create a character. In this she has had no model; it is her own conception, and all will admit that she presents as faithful and as piquant a picture of the frivolous, light-hearted, good-natured, but somewhat vulgar, wife of Crispino, as could well be imagined. Her acting was unpretentious and natural, and she did not forget its characteristics from the first scene to the close. She sang better than we ever remember to have heard her; the music suited her clear, bright, flexible voice; she felt its spirit, and she sang with abandon that won upon her audience at once, and gained for her their approbation and their cordial and demonstrative admiration. She made a brilliant and deserved success.

            The other characters were ably and spiritedly sustained by Irfre, Marra, Muller and Mme. Ficher. The chorus was excellent, and the orchestra behaved admirably under thee careful and intelligent direction of Signor Toriani.

             The opera was a complete success, and its second representation last night confirmed the impression. It will doubtless be frequently repeated during the coming season.”