Maretzek Italian Opera: L’Africaine

Event Information

Academy of Music

Manager / Director:
Max Maretzek

Carl Bergmann

Price: $1.50

Event Type:

Record Information


Last Updated:
31 March 2014

Performance Date(s) and Time(s)

16 Dec 1865, 1:00 PM

Program Details

Last performance of the season.

Performers and/or Works Performed


Announcement: New York Post, 11 December 1865.

     Crispino is announced for this matinee.

Advertisement: New-York Times, 11 December 1865, 7.
Announcement: New-York Times, 11 December 1865, 4.
Announcement: New York Post, 14 December 1865.

     “The lamented death of Rovere will prevent the intended performance of ‘Crispino,’ at the Saturday matinee, and ‘L’Africaine’ will be given instead.”

Advertisement: New-York Daily Tribune, 15 December 1865, 3.
Announcement: New-York Daily Tribune, 15 December 1865, 5.

     “[A] grand Matinee will be given, which will close the present season.  L’Africaine will be performed in order to afford an opportunity to hundreds who were unable to gain admittance to last Saturday’s Matinee.”

Announcement: New-York Times, 16 December 1865, 4.
Review: New-York Daily Tribune, 18 December 1865, 7.

     “The Italian operatic season for 1865, under the management of Max Maretzek, closed with a brilliant matinee on Saturday last, the 16th inst. The Academy was crowded from parquet to amphitheater to witness the last performance of L’Africaine, the last notes of which sounded mid hearty applause. The success which the first night of the season seemed to predict was completely fulfilled, for night after night, for many weeks, with the exception of a few nights of very bad weather, the Academy was crowded by fashionable, brilliant and appreciative audiences.

    The record fall season has been one of continued success. The revived operas attracted large houses and the new operas were successful almost beyond precedent.  The comic opera ‘Crispino e la Comare’ by the brothers Ricci, of which but moderate success was prognosticated, became popular at once, and to an extraordinary degree. This was due to a combination of art and artists. The music, charming in melody, rich in clever concerted pieces, and brilliant in instrumentation, is admirable because of its perfect adaptation to the subject itself, apart from the situations and the pure comic element. Effective as the music is, it never rises beyond the level of its subject. Thus the incidents and the music are homogeneous, and the public are struck at once with the unity of the whole. The artists selected to interpret the music could not have been improved upon. Miss Kellogg created the character of the cobbler’s wife; she entered into all its phases with infinite spirit, acted with a piquant grace, and sang the rôle with naivete, fluency, and brilliancy. Bellini, as the ‘regular’ doctor, displayed a degree of humor that would place him in Europe in the front rank of buffo singers. His humor, rich, racy and at the same time gentlemanly, and his admirable singing, left nothing to be desired. Poor Rovere, as Crispino, maintained his reputation as one of the first of buffo singers, and so identified himself with the part, that his successor will need all the sympathy of the audience, and all the force of his own talent to battle against the popular reminiscence. The secondary characters were ably sustained, the choruses well performed, and the band was well drilled and well conducted. It was the united excellence of the music and the audience, which secured the remarkable success of Crispino e la Comare.

     There is a curious fact connected with the present success of this opera. For years it was considered a failure, and the reason remained undiscovered until the work fell into the hands of a clever French critic, who discovered the cause. The chief incident of the second act is the restoration to life of a man by Crispino, through the aid of a fairy; in the original score, the same incident, only substituting a woman is detailed, but much less successfully as regards the music. This twice told tale rendered the opera heavy, and secured its failure. The act was cut out altogether, the action became close and rapid, the interest was concentrated, and a brilliant success was the immediate result.

    To those who had heard L’Africaine, its success was a foregone conclusion, but not to the extent it has achieved. Many doubted its success, from its want of the popular element; they did not calculate upon the effect of the perfect whole. The beauties of individual flowers cannot be compared with the combined beauties of the parterre. They did not calculate that earnest passion, appropriately expressed, would touch the heart and leave a more lasting impression than the semi-polka expressions of love and agony, which only tickle the ear. The most ignorant in music, while they complain that they discover no ‘tune,’ acknowledge the grandeur of the whole; they feel the influence of the perfect thought, idealized, polished, intensified, elaborated, and verified by patience, which is the conscience of genius. However, be the cause what it may, L’Africaine succeeded, brilliantly and triumphantly.

     Again the artists aided the composer, in the face of difficulties, which only a conscientious sense of duty could have enabled them to overcome. The complicated character of the music, so different from their school of study, seemed to spur the ambition of Zucchi, Mazzoleni and Bellini to endeavor to excel, and we must in justice record that their best artistic efforts were witnessed in L’Africaine. These three artists took in the whole scope of their respective roles; they sang with artistic conscientiousness, and threw the whole force of their talent into the interpretation of the composer’s thoughts. We accord to them the highest praise, and we doubt if this great work of Meyerbeer has ever received at the hands of artists more ample and complete justice. The whole production of L’Africaine, secondary characters, choruses, orchestra, ballet, scenery and general appointments, reflects the highest credit upon the judgment and liberality of the manager, and the honor attached to the perfection of the performance must be divided between Carl Bergmann and Max Maretzek.  During the season the following operas were given: Faust, four times; Poliuto, twice; Lucrezia Borgia, three times; Ione, four times; Ernani, five times, Un Ballo in Maschera, twice; Trovatore, three times; I Puritani, twice; Martha, three times; Traviata, once; Lucia di Lammermoor, once; Norma, three times; Robert le Diable, three times; Rigoletto, once; Fra Diavolo, four times; Don Giovanni, once; La Sonnambula, once; Crispino e la Comare, 12 times, and L’Africaine, nine times. During the whole of the season there has not been one disappointment, except the closing of the Opera House on the night of Rovere’s death none of the singers have been or have pretended to be sick, and every promise has been fulfilled, both in the spirit and the letter. Every work has been produced in good style, with competent artists and proper regard to details, and the season closed with the best possible feeling between the public, the artists and the manager, as was evidenced by the superb basket of flowers presented to Zucchi on the last night, and the costly plate presented to Max Maretzek together with a letter fully indorsing [sic] his managerial course and expressive of the utmost confidence and respect, from a majority of the influential and wealthy habitues of the opera.

     The season of 1865 was the most succesful ever known in America; the houses must have averaged nearly $3,000 per night; the receipts of one matinee alone, amounted to $4,300!  It may be calculated that the music loving people of New York have expended upon admission to the opera alone, during the past three months, very close upon $200,000.”

: Courrier des États-Unis, 18 December 1865.

     "Maretzek's successes were worthily crowned by an ovation bestowed upon the able impresario at Friday's performance, which closed the Opera season. The hall was full. L'Africaine hadn't yet been done as well during the preceding seven performances of this work. At the end of the third act, Maretzek, called upon by the entire audience, appeared before the footlights, accompanied by the four major characters, and was honored with the warmest applause. At that instant, the people who occupied the stage-box of M. Leonard Jerome presented him with a beautiful silver service, on one of the pieces of which was inscribed the following: 'To Max Maretzek: Homage to his ardor for the development of the lyric art, and in testimony of [our] appreciation for the excellent opera productions given under his direction at the New York Academy of Music.'

    The gift was accompanied by a most complimentary letter signed by the foremost names in the city, the first of which were MM. M.H. Grinnell, August Belmont, Samuel L.M. Barlow, W.H. Paine, Wm. Henry Hurlburt, Nath'l Sands, C. Godfrey Gunther, Leonard W. Jerome, and many others.

    M.Maretzek responded to this congratulatory action with a spicy speech, where he said that he accepted the compliment as an approval of his conduct toward a certain newspaper. These words were received with thunderous applause, which was repeated with more warmth again when he invited the audience to fortify itself against the rumors of failure and breakdown that could be spread on his account, in recalling that: This establishment doesn't advertise in the Herald. That flash of wit had a fine success, and proved that the laughers weren't on the side of the colossus of the American press, in his controversy with the impresario.

    Mme Zucchi received a magnificent basket of flowers at the end of the fourth act.

    MM. Mazzoleni, Bellini and Antonucci shared in the bravos, and audience and performers, in the end, parted from one another with the sincere desire to meet again face to face.



Review: Dwight's Journal of Music, 23 December 1865, 160.

     Quotes 12/18 Tribune review.

Review: New York Clipper, 23 December 1865, 294.

     “Max Maretzek’s remarkably successful operatic season was concluded with a matinee performance of ‘L’Africaine’ on the 16th.  Such a success, commercially and artistically, was probably never before enjoyed at the Academy.”