Academy of Music
Manager / Director:
26 March 2014
New York Revue. The Italian opera will not open the season either. Instead the magician Herman . . . will occupy the opera house from the 11th until the 15th of September. Following will be Maretzek’s company. He hired four new prima donnas: Carozzi-Zucci, Clara Kellogg, Ortolani-Brignoli, and the unknown Bosisio. She is a young singer who has only been performing for three years on the stages of Turin, Triest and Florence. She is a student of the Mailand Conservatorium where she supposedly won first prize. The following altos are hired: Adelaide Phillips and Bina de Bolst [fairly legible] from the theater in Rio. Tenors are: Mazzoleni, Massimiliani and Irfre, the lyrical tenor. Baritones are Bellini and Ardavani, bass Antonucci from the Italian opera in Paris, and probably also our fine German base Mr. Hermanns. Finally the bass Mr. Rovero who once sang with Mme. Alboni at Castle Garden and Niblo’s. In addition, Maretzek hired the majority of the former German chorus and 12 Italian choristers from London. Of the new works, the comedic opera Crispino e Comare and The African Woman, which has been rehearsed with the chorus for quite some time, will be staged first.
“Maretzek’s Italian Season at the New York Academy will open on the 25th. Of his company the Tribune says:
The three prime donne will be Signora Carozzi Zucchi, Miss Clara L. Kellogg, and Signorina Bossissio. Signorina Ortolani is also engaged. . . . Signorina Bossissio is an artist in the very freshness of her youth, and is said to possess a charm of feature and manner altogether irresistible. She was a pupil at the Conservatorio at Milan, where she obtained the first prize. The Maestro Petrella prepared her for the stage, and she was his favorite pupil. Her debut was in Petrella’s celebrated opera ‘Ione,’ in which her success was so complete that the gratified Maestro composed for her a comic opera called ‘Il Foletto di Gesly,’ or, the ‘Will-o’-the-Wisp.’ Mr. Maretzek has secured the score of this new opera, and will produce it early in the season.
The tenors are Mazzoleni, Massimiliani, and a new tenor di Grazia, Signor Irfre. He is well know in Italy, where, during a career of ten years, he has won an enviable reputation, and since the production of ‘Faust’ has been recognized as the most competent representative of that character, [sic]
The contralti are Miss Adelaide Phillips and Signora Bine de Rossi. Signor Bellini will resume the position he so ably filled last year, and Ardavani is also engaged. The new bassi are Signor Rovere, who was here some few years since with Madame Alboni, and was highly esteemed, and Signor Antonucci, who has a fine European reputation, and who for the last years had held a brilliant position in Paris, in connection with the most celebrated vocalists of the age. This is a most important engagement, and makes the company far more complete than it was last year. To this remarkable strength of bass singers will probably be added Hermanns, the best basso of the late German Opera.”
Large ad lists all the members of the company and gives season highlights.
“Mr. Max Maretzek announces that his Fall operatic season will commence on Monday, the 25th inst. It is understood that the star on the occasion will be the new prima donna Signorina Bossissio in Ione, supported by Mazzolini [sic] and an otherwise strong cast. The prospectus of the season has not been issued yet, but if we may judge from the strength of the company, a large and very varied repertoire is within the scope of Mr. Maretzek’s means. We learn that the subscription list is already very large, and that the prospect for the coming season is flattering in every respect.”
Large ad lists all the members of the company and gives season highlights.
Academy of Music – Opera Season 1865-66:
Rehired Singers: Mme Carozzi-Zucchi
Ms Clara Louise Kellog [sic]
Signor B. Massimilliani [sic]
Signor Fernando Bellini
The direction of the opera, the success of the singers, and the audience’s approbation enabled the impresario to conclude the last season with brilliance. It was a season that not only showed liberalness but also a lack of the usual disturbances and disappointments of opera seasons.
Not without pride, the director also announces the engagement of the following new singers:
Signor Francesco Mazzoleni
Signora Antonetta Brignoli
Miss Adelaide Philipps
Additional new engagements, American debutantes:
Signora Enrichetta Bosisio, prima donna, s, from the principal theaters of Turin, Malta and Florence
Signora Bine de Rossi, first contralto from the Italian opera in Lima
Signor Etiore Irfre, first tenor from Barcelona, Naples, etc.
Signor Guiseppe Marra, first tenor from La Scala, Milan
Signor G. B. Antonucci, first bass of the Imperial Italian opera in Paris
Mr. Julius Sesselberg, first bass from the opera in Vienna
The leading parts will be performed by:
Miss Fanny Stockton
Supporting parts will be performed by Mme. Reichardt, Herr Reichardt and Herr Müller
The Men’s Chorus is completely new and has been enriched with singers from the Majestic Theater, London. The orchestra has been carefully chosen and will be directed by Karl Bergmann, Signor Torriani and Max Maretzek.
Bandleader …………………………………………….. Messrs. Appy & Noll
Director …………………………………………….. Signor Dubreuil
Ballet master …………………………………………... Signor Ronzani
Decoration Painter …………………………………….. Signor Calyo
The principal works are of the Italian, French, and German schools; these will be presented consecutively. The novelties this season are:
L’Africaine by Meyerbeer – Very successful in Paris and London; now here in America. The production will be carefully staged with an excellent cast, stage set and costumes
Crispino e la Comare by the brothers Ricci – romantic opera in three acts. This opera has been received very well; it offers beautiful music and entertaining drama.
Il Foletto di Gresy by Errico Petrella (composer of Jone).
The regular opera evenings will be Mondays, Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Fridays.
Ticket prices are as usual.
New York Revue. The impresario of the Italian Opera, the invincible, as he used to be called by his former protégé and now bitter enemy, has opened the box office advance sales for his upcoming season. Despite the on-going heat, which keeps the wealthy patrons of the opera away from the city in their country side residences, the demand for tickets in the advance sale has been unusually great which gives the enterprise a good prognosis of success. It seems as though the argument between Maretzek and his former protégé—which was executed with quite some vigor by Maretzek—has not hurt him. Lately his opponent has chosen a different tactic; he is directing his blows that formerly attacked Maretzek personally, towards the opera. The Herald states that two European institutions cannot exist at the same time on American soil: the German Empire and the Opera. “The Opera goes together with the Empire, and Republicans are not interested in either,” the Herald says. An original idea, alas, half-true. In the land of origin of the musical drama, Italy, from which the genre spread all over the civilized world, sovereign protection was never given nor needed. Opera is able to stand on its own feet and is being carried by its friends and admirers which means by the majority of people, thus it thrives beautifully especially in Italy. It is true that the economics required to allow glamorous stage scenery and meet the rising demands for higher pay by the singers in this age of modern opera often leads to a limited number of performances, at least in the smaller towns, though this can also be said in a milder version about dramatic plays if they are original and artistic rather than being primarily aimed at profit-making and thus of less demanding artistic value.
However, if art requires the support of a patron, it does not necessarily need to be a prince. Recently an English philosopher has proven that sovereign goodwill can misguide art. The best patrons are the educated middle class members, a patronage the opera depends on and which hardly ever gets withdrawn if it is deserved as experience has shown us in the last several years. Maretzek’s large company consists of a number of formidable singers from the last two seasons and several artists, still unknown here, with an excellent reputation, a strong and well-trained chorus, and a fine orchestra with a diligent conductor. In addition he offers a brilliant repertoire with three new operas; among them he promised Meyerbeer’s L’Africaine. Since he is the only opera director here who usually keeps his promises, we can expect with certainty that he will have numerous patrons who will support his enterprise and who will appreciate his artistic success.
The season will be opened on Monday, September 25th with Rossini’s Guillaume Tell. Until then the magician (Hermann) will occupy the opera house into which he draws a large audience every evening.
The members of Mr. Maretzek’s company are beginning to congregate in force. The new artists have arrived, and the greatest activity prevails in the vicinity of Fourteenth-street. It will be possible to acknowledge that one is in town after Monday next. The fashionable season opens with the Academy and the millinery stores on that day. The effect, indeed, on the fancy goods trade by this institution can hardly be exaggerated. There is scarcely a store in Broadway that is not directly benefited by the existence of Italian opera, and amongst these people all is bustle and preparation. From the vendor of bouquets to the importer of Cashmere shawls, every one is on the alert. So essential is the opera to a large class of tradesmen—that class which supplies the elegancies of life—that we have often wondered they did not amongst themselves subscribe for another opera-house just to keep the ball moving in the dull periods of the year.
The season opens with ‘Ione,’ a favorite work with our audiences, and one in which Signor Mazzoleni will make his rentrée. The new prima donna Mlle. Bossessio [sic] also, plays in it, sustaining the role heretofore made popular by Mme. Medori.”
“The original idea of opening the opera season with ‘Ione’ has been modified, and Petrella’s brilliant work will be postponed till later in the week. On Monday night, ‘Faust’ will be given, and the favorite New York prima donna, Miss Kellogg, will thus have the honor of opening what promises to be the most attractive operatic season ever offered to our public.
This production of ‘Faust’ will have its interest also, as introducing two new singers. Irfre, the new tenor, will take the title-role, and his performances at the rehearsals give every promise that a marked success is in store for him. Indeed, the mere fact of his taking the part when Mazzoleni is in the company, shows that management has a high opinion of his abilities.
Antonucci, the new basso, will be the Mephistopheles, and his success is deemed equally certain. The admired baritone Bellini will take his original part of Valentin, and Adelaide Phillips, if she arrive [sic] in the city in time, will be Siebel. Maretzek himself will conduct. Miss Stockton and Herr Muller will fill the minor parts.”
“Maretzek, having revolted from the sway of the Herald, will naturally dispense with the little pilot fish the Play Bill; but as the idea of the sheet was not a bad one, he will improve upon it by presenting to his patrons at the Academy of Music a new paper to be called the Prima Donna, which, besides the operatic programme for the evening, will contain a variety of light and entertaining gossip for entr’acte reading. The first number will be issued next week, and may be had at the opera house on Monday night. It will probably be adopted at other places of entertainment.”
“First appearance in America of the new artists Signor Irfre and Signor Antonucci.”
“The sale of seats for the opening of the opera season to-night has been so large as to secure a very large audience.”
“The Academy of Music opens for the season to-night, with Gounod’s opera of ‘Faust.’ This work has been especially selected for the rentrée of Miss Clara Louis Kellogg and the débuts of Signor Irfre and Signor Antonucci. It would not, of course, be in good taste to speak at this moment of the gentlemen, but there can be no impropriety in saying that they have been eminently successful at rehearsal. Every one will be glad to welcome Miss Kellogg back to the operatic stage. She is the favorite of our public, and as Margherita can hardly be excelled by any artist. Signor Bellini is the Valentine and Mr. Max Maretzek will preside in the orchestra. The house will, of course, be most brilliantly attended.”
“Tonight the doors of the Academy of Music open….
As we have announced, Faust inaugurates the season….The principal interest of the evening is in the debuts of the tenor Irfre and the bass Antonucci. One of our friends, who attended the dress rehearsal, gave us the details.
M. Irfre possesses a supple and well-timbred voice. He excels in the art of nuances, and expressed perfectly the scene in the first act that is so difficult. M. Antonucci’s voice recalls that of the celebrated Graziani; at the rehearsal, M. Antonucci, who is a very handsome man, didn’t have in the least a diabolical air, but that’s a fault which is easy for him to correct in the performance with a little makeup. We add that it’s not necessary that Mephistopheles be attired like the legendary devil, and armed with claws, horns and a tail. It’s up to the actor to give the character his satanic physiognomy through his acting and his art, rather than his costume. If Mephistopheles were too much the horned devil, one wouldn’t comprehend how Marguerite wouldn’t guess his deceit or [would] tolerate his presence for a single moment. Besides, M. Antonucci, who would have known the creator of the role, M. Balanqué, in Paris, should possess the traditions of the role perfectly.
M. Bellini exchanged the role of Mephistopheles for that of Valentin, a secondary character whom the artist nevertheless knew how to make important. Mlle Kellogg will always be the Marguerite we know, and Mlle Ficker, a young singer unknown to us, will sing the role of Siebel.”
" . . . . One of our friends, who attended the dress rehearsal, [said the following]:
M. Irfre possesses a supple and well-timbred voice. He excels in the art of nuances, and expressed perfectly the scene in the first act that is so difficult. The voice of M. Antonucci recalls that of the celebrated Graziani; at the rehearsal, M. Antonucci, who is a very handsome man, didn't have in the least a diabolical air, but that's a fault which is easy for him to correct in the performance with a little makeup. We add that it's not necessary that Mephistopheles be attired like the legendary devil, and armed with claws, horns and a tail. It's up to the actor to give the character his satanic physiognomy through his acting and his art, rather than his costume. If Mephistopheles were too much the horned devil, one wouldn't comprehend how Marguerite wouldn't guess his deceit or tolerate his presence for a single moment. Besides, M. Antonucci, who would have known the creator of the role, M. Balanque, in Paris, should possess the traditions of the role perfectly.
M. Bellini exchanged the role of Mephistopheles for that of Valentin, a secondary character whom the artist nevertheless mknew how to make important. Mlle Kellogg will always be the Marguerite we know, and Mlle Ficker, a young singer unknown to us, will sing the role of Siebel."
“Opening of the Opera Season.
The fact that the Italian opera is one of the most popular luxuries of metropolitan life was fully evidenced by the large and brilliant assemblage at the Academy of Music last night. Although during the afternoon a malevolent report had been circulated down town that, owing to the illness of one of the singers, there would be no opera, the house was crowded to excess, and the space back [sic] of the seats was filled with gentlemen who took standee positions. A few of the regular frequenters of the opera were, however, absent, and their boxes were empty. A vast number of strangers were in the house.
The opera began quite punctually; the expressive overture was given with good taste, and the rising curtain disclosed the new tenor Irfre in the guise of an old man. The first act of ‘Faust’ is but a prelude to the work itself, and contains but few points in which a singer can specially attract an audience. Irfre in this act, however, showed the pure, delicate quality of his voice.
In the second act the increased choral force was heard to excellent advantage, and a touch of ballet was received with favor. Miss Kellogg crossed the scene like a ray of sunlight, and the tenor made a good point in a prolonged high note. In this act Antonucci made his most marked success in the ‘Gold Song,’ which he gave with spirit and effect.
The third act was charmingly performed. Miss Kellogg is so identified with the music of the garden scene, that it is only necessary to say that she was in good voice to imply the excellence of the performance. The jewel song was given with all her graceful coquetry and facility of vocal execution. In this act, too, the new tenor was pleasantly prominent. His rendering of the test aria, Salve dimora casta e pura, was one of the purest, most exquisite specimens of sostenuto singing ever heard on the lyric stage. It was delicate and subdued throughout—perhaps too subdued to afford sufficient light and shade—and showed not only a most artistic appreciation of the music, but a thorough knowledge of vocal management. Irfre is, perhaps, the best light tenor we have had. With robust voices we have been largely favored, and they, it must be confessed, are best calculated to strike a sudden enthusiasm out of the audience, as the steel strikes fire from the flint; but the lover of genuine singing will also enjoy the exquisite vocalization and pure, true tenor quality which form the distinguishing feature of Irfre’s performance.
The fourth act includes the scene before the church door, too often omitted in the stage representations of the opera. The maledictions of Mephistopheles were magnificently delivered by the new basso, who possesses a rich, sonorous voice, though physically he is not as well adapted to the part as some of his predecessors. He acts with spirit, and his debut was an undoubted success, which will be increased by future performances. Indeed, both Antonucci and Irfre have at once taken a position as first-class artists, and from that very fact are judged by the highest standard and compared with the most eminent vocalists. In the parts of Mephistopheles and Faust we have had artists who made particular hits where Antonucci and Irfre were not specially effective; but we have had none who have as quietly and unhesitatingly stepped into the first rank. In ‘Lucrezia’ there is reason to anticipate for them a still more striking success.
The fourth act of the opera contains the soldiers’ chorus, which was encored; and herein, too, Bellini gave his admirable rendering of the death of Valentine. This singer was received as an old favorite, and sang fully as well as last season. The last act, consisting chiefly of the duets for tenor and soprano, was given in a tender and delicate manner.
Of the minor characters the Siebel [sic] of Madame Ficker, who was called upon suddenly to take the part, was a pleasing effort of a promising young singer. Miss Gebele, as Marta, brought an insignificant part into prominence, and Muller gave sonorous valuable aid. The chorus was excellent, and the whole performance was a felicitous beginning of the new season. When the audience a night or two later becomes warmed up, the meritorious efforts of the new artists and the old favorites will receive the encouraging applause they deserve. The listeners last night did not do their duty in this respect.”
“Amusements. Academy of Music—Opening of Mr. Maretzek’s Season.—Italian opera has been well described as the most captivating form of the drama. The truthfulness of this definition is described readily in the favor with which every class views so agreeable an institution. Even they who have but little relish for music in itself are captivated with the many accompaniments and surroundings of opera. The ordinary drama has, indeed, borrowed much from its grand contemporary, and so involuntarily complimented it. There are but few pieces now that do not boast of their new and original music, of their dances and scenery. In melo-drama we have almost reached the recitative. Speaking ‘through the music’ is an ordinary device, and where intensity is aimed at, prevails in whole scenes. But in Italian opera the senses that best bear refining are appealed to in the most direct way. A fictitious world is created for our pleasure—a world of poetry, tinted and burnished with the other arts. To penetrate this realm of magic illusion is a privilege that the world has never been slow to acknowledge. Curiously, too, it happens that a practical people generally take most readily to this form of recreation. In New-York opera has become a necessity of every class, and in London it has been found to thrive lustily in the eastern districts, where the hands are horny, and the voices boisterous but honest. When Mr. Maretzek commences a season, he scarcely considers the subscription list except for the convenience of the habitués. He looks to the amphitheatre, the family circle, the lobbies, where ‘standing room only’ is the modest requirement, and there he reads the verdict of the town. He will, we fancy, be satisfied with the one recorded last night. We have rarely seen a more brilliant gathering, or heard applause that was more hearty and encouraging alike to the artists and the manager. The assembly was mainly provincial, and further illustrates our position that the opera is general in its interest and confined to no class.
The opera was Gounod’s ‘Faust’—a work which we have always had well performed in this country, and which in consequence has become a general favorite with the public. And it is agreeable enough to renew one’s musical tastes with so admirable a production. The music comes pleasantly back to the memory, not in a tepid way, but vigorously and with self assertion. Thoughtful, melodious, and well wrought, it satisfies many tastes, without wearying the most fastidious. The cast last night introduced two of Mr. Maretzek’s new artists, Signor Irfre (Faust) and Signor Antonucci (Mephistopheles). Before speaking of those gentlemen let us hasten to greet Miss Clara Louise Kellogg, who made her rentrée as Margherita. The American, and we think the German idea of the character is entirely identified with the lady’s careful and beautiful interpretation of it. From her first appearance at the wheel in the opening act to the terrified exclamation of the last, she preserves a perfectly ideal reserve and maidenly graciousness which can hardly be extolled too highly. Although sometimes a little angular in her movements, it cannot for a moment be doubted that Miss Kellogg is an actress of a very high grade. The meeting with Faust in the market-place, where curiosity and prudishness are so aptly mingled, and the whole of the love scenes of the third act—where vulgarity could so easily find an entrance—are proof of this. Miss Kellogg dresses the part with admirable taste. We need scarcely speak of the music; it is interpreted faultlessly, and as it is written—a merit which no other New-York singer has yet been able to claim in this part. The lady was received enthusiastically by the audience, as indeed was her due, for she has seldom appeared to greater advantage. Her voice has gained in strength, and is now in the finest condition that we ever remember to have heard it. She was called out and bouqueted hugely.
The new tenor, Signor Irfre, comes to us without a reputation, but we shall be mistaken if he leaves us in the same condition. His voice is an exceedingly agreeable tenore de gracia, inclining slightly in a few upper notes to the robustiousness [sic] which we affect in New-York. It is not of great compass, nor is it particularly powerful. We find its charm mainly in the quality and the perfect use to which Signor Irfre puts it. Very seldom do we hear a voice that has been apparently well used preserve its tractability in so equal a ratio. The whole of the third act was a masterpiece of phrasing, especially the cavatina Casta dimora, which by its vagueness and reticence of form makes an unusual demand on the intelligence of the singer. We doubt if the morceau has ever been so well given in this city. It is right to add that Signor Irfre appeared to be laboring under a painful degree of trepidation, and perhaps from that cause failed to exert all the powers which he may possess. He did not, however, fail to demonstrate that he is an artist, and one to whose gradual development we may look forward with perfect confidence.
Signor Antonucci is an artist of distinction. He has a voice of beautiful quality, and of singular purity of intonation. It is of considerable compass, and better up than downward. The rondo in the second act and the serenade of the fourth were sung well, and elicited well deserved applause. In the third act Signor Antonucci was also heard to advantage; every one, in fact, is always heard to better advantage in the third act. We must, however, make an exception to this statement. Mme. Ficher, who was the Siebel [sic], dragged the time of the famous ‘Flower Song’ most lamentably.
Signor Bellini was the Valentine, and we are glad to say received a hearty welcome. He was in superb condition, and his grand voice resounded throughout the building magnificently. He is the best baritone we have had in this country for many years, and it is a gratifying part of a critic’s duty to record the ever-increasing favor with which he is received by the public. He has not much to do in this opera, but the little that falls to his share is rendered important by the earnestness of his style and the real grandeur of his organ.
Mr. Maretzek presided in the orchestra with his accustomed ability. He did not seem to be particularly crushed by recent events, but on the contrary presented a jovial and well satisfied appearance. The orchestra is somewhat stronger than usual, and has evidently been selected with great care. The chorus is very good, and numbers in its regular forces, a dozen new male voices from Her Majesty’s Theatre, London, imported by the impressario as a protection against the slouchy, discontented crew who were wont to embarrass him last season.”
“Music. Italian opera—Academy of Music. The opening of the Fall season of the Italian Opera created a marked excitement in all musical circles, for the popular opera of the day was announced, old favorites were to be welcomed, and new artists to be heard, and judgment upon them to be passed. The house was crowded by a brilliant and fashionable audience, even the upper tiers and ampitheater were full to overflowing. If the audience on this occasion is a sample of the public patronage to be bestowed upon the opera, the management will have reason to be satisfied with the result of the season.
Mr. Maretzek conducted the opera, and his appearance in the orchestra was the signal for loud and continued plaudits, not the noisy acclamation of a few friends, but a tribute in which the whole audience joined. The orchestra is a fine one in all its divisions. The strings led by Appy and Noll, are admirable, and the wood and brass, composed of the best artists in those departments, are equal to every demand made upon them. But even with the best means, perfect success is not always attained. The Introduction was deliberately and effectively performed, but the instrumentation of the first act was decidedly muddy. It was mixed up, not clear and defined. The succeeding acts, however, redeemed it. The orchestral score is replete with remarkable beauties. Figures of exquisite grace and loveliness occur in wonderful profusion, which require the most delicate coloring, and the broadest effects of light and shade. Fair, if not full justice was done to this charming instrumentation, many parts being better rendered than we have ever heard them before.
The opera of Faust, though lacking the great essentials of a grand opera, namely: a great concerted finale, is a work of extraordinary merit. It is deeply considered, it is intensely dramatic, and its musical development of the leading characters presents a positive individuality unusually expressed. How different the music of Faust, the aged and discontented philosopher, from that of Faust, the wildly impassioned lover. What a contrast exists between the Marguerite, light-hearted, simple and joyous, as she admires herself in her new found jewels, and the Marguerite in the blaze of her first passionate love—again in the sadness of her abandonment and, lastly, in her penitence, and faith in forgiveness! The music of Mephistopheles is sneering, sardonic, and devilish throughout; that of Valentine bold and manly, if commonplace; while to Siebel [sic] is given music, every phrase of which breathes the very presence of tender though helpless love. It is the truthfulness of these delineations of character which give the vital, human interest to the opera, and sustain it to the very end. We do not believe that in the whole range of operatic music there can be found anything to equal the passionate sensuousness, the gorgeous voluptousness [sic] of the music of the third act of Faust. The melodies literally burn and sigh, and faint from excess of passionate emotion, while the instrumentation swells the flood of passion til it swells up to overflowing. And still through all there is a vein of faith in the purity of the emotions, which redeem it from the charge of sensuality. Its treatment by Gounod is a study that will bear and repay the closest examination.
Miss Kellogg was the Marguerite of the evening, and looked well the character in its beauty and in its manner. We can award no praise on this occasion which she does not richly deserve. It presents so vast an improvement over all that she has hitherto done that we recognize the ardent and intelligent student, whose aim will not stop short of the highest position. Her conception of the character is maidenly, simple and gentle, but her passion rose with the situation when she displayed a dramatic force and energy which we have not recognized in any of her previous connections. Nothing could be more tenderly graceful, more moderately passionate, than her acknowledgment to Faust of a reciprocated love. She sang her music most beautifully throughout, marking appropriately each phase of the character we have described. We could hardly have wished one phrase altered. Her voice seems to have gained in volume and spontaneity, and in intonation it was faultless from the beginning to the end. We consider her interpretation of the role of Marguerite as an unqualified success.
Signor Irfre, the Faust of the evening, is an artist in that sense of the word which comprehends refinement, style, and taste. His middle voice has been overforced and betrays some signs of wear in its vibrations which cannot, apparently, be controlled, but his upper register is clear, bright and ringing, and highly effective. As we have said, he sings like a true artist, and we have not heard since Salvi left anything more truly artistic, nay, almost fastidiously tasteful, than his rendering of the Aria in the third act. It was an effort that should stamp his reputation at once. He sang all his music with passion, feeling, and emphasis, and was loudly applauded throughout, being called out with Antonucci repeatedly.
Bellini gave us evidence of how much a fine artist can make of a small part. In his hands Valentine rose to the rank of a first character, and one of great interest. His voice was unusually rich and steady, and he sang finely. He might make the part of more importance by introducing the song, arranged, we believe, by Gounod himself for the celebrated English baritone Santly, from that lovely theme in the introduction. It is a beautiful and effective aria, and was published in this city in a work called the ‘Musical Host.’
Signor Antonucci, the Mephistopheles, is an excellent and sterling artist. He has a voice of large compass and capable of making strong effects. His mezzo-voce has suffered somewhat from a severe cold, which was made evident in occasional false intonation, but which was never found in passages of power. He is evidently a thoroughly educated artist; his style is excellent, his phrasing very emphatic, his delivery clear and unembarrassed, and he is, beside, a good and spirited actor. His efforts were warmly received by the public, and he shared the honor of the several recalls before the curtain.
Although very much disappointed at the non-appearance of Miss Adelaide Phillips, who was first announced to sustain the character of Siebel [sic], and whose absence should be explained, we must compliment Madame Ficker [sic] for her able and graceful personation of the part. She sang the music with much tenderness and feeling, and acted with effect and discretion.
The choruses were admirably performed. We have had no such male chorus on the Italian opera stage. The soldiers’ chorus was sung with such certainty, force and spirit, that it was loudly encored. It was sung better than on any previous occasion, by either the Italian or German choristers. The opera was produced in admirable style as to scenery, dresses, and an amplitude of supernumeraries.
The whole performance was a complete success, and it must be conceded that the Fall season of the Italian opera has commenced most brilliantly.”
Introduction section missing.
A very elegant audience. The American audience members are appreciated for their support of Maretzek. He will have a difficult season, because of the immense costs of his productions, and the suspected attacks of a mighty newspaper which will use all its influence to injure him.
The new lyrical tenor, Signor Irfre, did not leave a lasting impression on us, we have to admit. He seemed to be quite nervous and held-back, which did not allow him to display the full range and skill of his voice. His organ sounds well only in the higher ranges, whereas in the middle and lower it seemed rather strained and husky. In the third act, the singer had some memorable moments, yet, even here he impaired his performance with ‘outrieren,’ forcing of the voice, which will secure him the applause of the audience, though not in an appropriate or pretty fashion. Possibly he will be able to be more convincing in other parts. Signor Antonucci, the new bass, proved to be an artist of first class, although even his voice suffers signs of a long career as a singer. However, with his experience he knows how to conceal his weaknesses well. In addition, Signor Antonucci is an excellent actor. It is very obvious that he has been performing on big stages. Except for the performances of Miss Kellogg and Signor Bellini, none of the other soloists impressed.
The chorus is significantly enlarged and improved; the fresh voices that were added favorably influenced the sound of the chorus, which was obvious in last night’s performance. The orchestra also did very well.
Instead of the Play Bill the new theater magazine The Prima Donna was handed out as a program yesterday. The magazine offered interesting and appropriate reading material which helped to alleviate the boredom in-between acts.
“The opera season was inaugurated by Faust. The choice is good if one considers only the work’s popularity; it is even better if one dreams that the role of Faust is one of the most advantageous for M. Irfre, who debuted in this work. But at the risk of bringing on ourselves the anger of the public, the misunderstanding of connoisseurs and accusations of paradox, we avow that, the more we hear the opera of M. Gounod, the less we can account for its success. Besides the famous waltz, we ask ourselves what melody, in this overrated production, can charm the listeners to this point. ‘Some rhythm, some rhythm,’ wrote Rossini to one of his friends. Well, rhythm seems to us to be completely weak in the music of Faust. No well-defined outline, no cleanly-designed phrase. Lots of harmonic knowledge, but what does it mean? Is music simply a mathematical art? Is the composer only an algebraist? Can any combination of notes, as marvelously scientific as it may be, ever replace the least melody and the least dramatic inspiration?
In spite of its gobbling-up of Faust, the public implicitly gives us a reason for the enthusiastic reception that it always gives to the choruses of the second and fourth acts. One is so tired of sonorities and modulations, without rhythm and without end, that one hears with pleasure the march that has become celebrated and that is nevertheless of a very vulgar allure and a bit common. But it at least has the merit of a freely acknowledged motion; it cuts through the void and paleness of the rest.
We humbly ask pardon for these blasphemies from the admirers and fanatics of Faust. We don’t pretend in any way to support the idea that we are exclusively right, and everyone is free to find our personal opinion perfectly absurd. Perhaps we lack the sensibility necessary to understand the transcendental music of Faust, and in that case we are more to be pitied than blamed. We know that the immense majority of our readers will say that we are wrong, although we are acquainted with a small number of people of our opinion. One must have a certain courage, or if you wish, a certain assurance, to dare to speak our sentiment, for if it is imposed by the minority, the minority that refuses to bow down before Faust is ridiculous by force of being limited.
Nevertheless, we will offer to lay a bet that, in twenty years, one will not be able to perform Faust before the public. That opera will be completely out of fashion, and it will be boring, as today some works are tedious that had great publicity in times of yore and that we can’t stand nowadays. Truly beautiful productions are always in fashion; as they bear their praise, not through the simple taste of the public, which is essentially fleeting, but because of their true and intrinsic beauty, they are in circulation through all epochs. Guillaume Tell, Robert, Les Huguenots, Orphée, will not perish. One will object that our wager is long-dated, and that we get the good part for ourselves; but, o readers, what do you want! We follow the example of unknown authors and of all of those who are in contradiction with their contemporaries. We appeal modestly to the judgment of posterity.”