Grover German Opera: Fidelio

Event Information

Academy of Music

Manager / Director:
Leonard Grover

Carl Anschütz

Price: $.25 gallery; .50 family circle; $1 parquet, dress circle, balcony; $1.50 reserved seats; $2 reserved box

Event Type:

Record Information


Last Updated:
20 November 2014

Performance Date(s) and Time(s)

01 May 1865, Evening

Program Details

Two overtures associated with Fidelio were performed; it is probable that Leonora no. 3 was performed before the second act.

Fidelio was originally scheduled for April 19, 1865, but was postponed due to Lincoln’s assassination.

Both Weinlich and Hermann were announced for the role of Sarastro, but Weinlich actually performed, cf. Watson’s Weekly Art Journal. New York, Saturday, May 6, 1865, p. 24.

Performers and/or Works Performed

aka Leonore, oder Der Triumph der ehelichen Liebe; Leonore, or The Triumph of Married Love; Fidelio, oder Die eheliche Liebe;
Composer(s): Beethoven
Text Author: Sonnleithner
Participants:  Grover German Opera Company;  Joseph Weinlich (role: Sarastro);  Bertha Johannsen (role: Leonore);  Anton Graf (role: Don Fernando);  Heinrich Steinecke (role: Pizzaro);  Theodore Habelmann (role: Jaquino);  Pauline Canissa (role: Marcellis);  Franz Himmer (role: Florestan)


Advertisement: New-York Times, 15 April 1865.

      Announces original performance for April 19, 1865.

Advertisement: New York Herald, 01 May 1865, 7.

      Quotes other newspapers’ praise for the singers involved in this performance, and: “[The opera’s] presentation by THIS CAST in the city of Boston was attended with the most marked success. It achieved during a brief season six representations, to houses uniformly greater than those ever successively accorded an opera perhaps in all America.”

Announcement: New-York Times, 01 May 1865.

      “We are sure the Academy of Music will be crowded to its greatest capacity, Beethoven’s only opera, ‘Fidelio,’ is to be produced, and every lover of music, whether classically disposed or otherwise, is bound to inform or refresh himself of or with its beauties. The work, we are assured, has been prepared with care, and if it be given with only the same completeness that characterized the performance of ‘Faust,’ on Friday last, it will, we doubt not, insure many profitable repetitions.”

Review: New York Herald, 02 May 1865.

      “In conception the opera is highly dramatic, and in its interpretation last night there was nothing wanted to carry out the idea of the composer and satisfy the audience.  The opera was produced in every respect—whether we regard scenery, costume or cast—in a manner which rendered it highly enjoyable.  Hermans [sic] was exceedingly fine as Rocco.  Madame Johannsen, as Lenore [sic], interpreted the part with a great deal of that exalted sentiment which the story of woman’s love—tried so severely as that of the heroine—naturally inspires.  The choruses were excellently sung, the prisoners’ chorus, in the first act, particularly so.  The orchestral performance was perfect, Beethoven’s two overtures preceding the first and second acts being given with very grand effect, and eliciting much applause.  The trio in the second act, one of the brightest charms of the opera, created a marked effect.  It is to be regretted that this fine dramatic work cannot be repeated.  We are sure, from the manner in which it was presented and received last night, that its reproduction would be most acceptable.”

Review: New-York Times, 02 May 1865.

     “Academy of Music.—The ordinary performances of ‘Fidelio’ in this city have been of so inferior a character, that it is giving Mr. Grover but scanty credit to say that his representation of this fine work last evening was by all odds the best we have ever heard in America. The cast was as complete as a possible. It included the following artists: [lists cast]. With a single exception, this distribution could hardly have been bettered, and that exception was so unimportant that we shall not further refer to it. In all healthy respects, the opera was finely rendered. It is a shame that the house, instead of being moderately well attended, was not filled to its greatest capacity. The apathy which prevails on the subject of amusements prevails universally. Our theatres are deserted, and Mr. Grover, heavily weighted as he is with a very large and expensive company, simply shares the bad fortunes of his neighbors.

     The really grand music of ‘Fidelio’ is balanced on so many shoulders that there is hardly an opportunity of any one singer breaking down or carrying of more than his proper share of applause. The pieces melt into each other with singular softness, preserving, the while, the characteristics of each actor and part. No one with an aural capacity for melody can fail to love the charming suggestions that spring up in every bar. It is, however, unnecessary to dwell on the merits of a work which is universally conceded to be the chef d’œuvre of the great master.

     All the singers, with the exception of Herr Steinecke, who had a slight cold in the head, were in capital voice. They exerted themselves with creditable emotion, and the result was an ensemble which we have rarely heard equated at the Academy. The orchestra, under the admirable baton of Mr. Anschutz, was perfect, and the chorus, although somewhat weak for the prisoners’ great scene, was generally steady and good.

      A work of such intrinsic beauty and popularity, (for we do not accept last evening’s attendance as a criterion of this point), ought certainly to have more than one performance, and we hope Mr. Grover may be induced to reconsider his determination not to play it again.”

Review: New-York Daily Tribune, 02 May 1865, 5.

      Lists cast. “There is but one opinion throughout the civilized world in regard to the supreme beauty of the opera of Fidelio in a purely musical point of view.  It must be conceded that it lacks some of the elements which render our modern operas so generally popular, but in depth of sentiment and in wild, yet profound passion, it stands alone, saving perhaps, that it might rank with Mozart’s Don Giovanni. Vocally it is enormously difficult, requiring the highest talent, and the freshest and most powerful voices, but if these ever are wanted, there is so much intrinsic grandeur, so much living passion in the music, that it absorbs the attention independent of all considerations of executive ability.  On this occasion, however, the artists were very competent not only physically, but in artistic appreciation. The concerted music in which it abounds, and which is of unequaled beauty, was rendered with a fidelity that could not but gratify the most exacting critical judgment.  The famous ‘Prisoners’ Chorus’ so profound in its sentiment of misery, and yet exhibiting so strange a lifting up of the heart as they breathe the fresh air and drink in the sunshine, was very finely performed the beautiful effects conceived by the composer being faithfully preserved.  

     The wonderful instrumentation, which in itself is a study, and which is replete with aesthetic beauties, received full justice at the hands of the orchestra; Mr. Anschutz keeping them well under control and exhibiting more than usual care.

     Mme. Johannsen deserves much credit for her really charming singing; it was in every respect artistic.  The other artists were all worthy of warm commendation.  The whole opera was a rare intellectual feast.”

Review: New-Yorker Musik-Zeitung, 03 May 1865, 101.

"Fidelio moved deeply once again.  Despite Mozart’s influence in some parts of the music, Beethoven’s signature was dominant in all its might.  Particularly in the dungeon scene of the second act, every note is gripping.  We consider this act the highest triumph of dramatic music.  Orchestra and singing, artistic creativity, expression and melody are a whole."

[Preliminary translation]

Announcement: New York Clipper, 06 May 1865, 30.
Review: New York Clipper, 13 May 1865, 38.

      No specific mention of Fidelio. “Grover’s spring season of German Opera at the Academy of Music has not proved to be as successful as his fall series of entertainments. In common with all places of amusement, the opera feels the effects of the Washington assassination.”