Maretzek Italian Opera: Lucrezia Borgia

Event Information

Academy of Music

Manager / Director:
Max Maretzek

Angelo Torriani

Event Type:

Record Information


Last Updated:
17 July 2013

Performance Date(s) and Time(s)

29 Sep 1865, 8:00 PM

Program Details

Performers and/or Works Performed

aka Lucretia Borgia
Composer(s): Donizetti
Text Author: Romani
Participants:  Maretzek Italian Opera Company;  Domenico Lorini;  Carlotta Carozzi-Zucchi (role: Lucrezia);  Adelaide Phillips (role: Orsini);  Ettore Irfre (role: Gennaro);  Giuseppe B. [basso] Antonucci (role: Alfonso);  Amati Dubreuil;  Ettore Barili


Advertisement: New-York Daily Tribune, 28 September 1865.
Advertisement: New York Herald, 29 September 1865.

First appearance of Adelaide Phillipps in four years.

Announcement: New York Post, 29 September 1865, 2.
Announcement: New-York Times, 29 September 1865, 4.
Advertisement: New-Yorker Staats-Zeitung und Herold, 29 September 1865.
Announcement: New-Yorker Staats-Zeitung und Herold, 29 September 1865.

[Preliminary translation]

This opera was once played in Barcelona with Rubini in the role of ‘Gennaro’. Rubini was favored so much that after he left the production, no other singer was accepted by the audience until Irfre took on that part, and the audience was taken by storm.

Review: New-York Times, 30 September 1865, 4.

Academy of Music.—An unusually equal and creditable performance of ‘Lucrezia Borgia’ was given here, last evening, to another full and fashionable audience.  We have rarely heard an old opera create so much genuine applause from a house which, while warm in appreciating the music, was singularly cold toward the singers.  The caste was as follows: [Lists cast and roles.]

     Miss Phillips was barely remembered by the audience, which, to speak the truth, was still somewhat provincial and conglomerate. The lady, therefore, had all the pleasure of making a new and successful début; for the Rimini narrative of the first act was received justly with great applause. It was delivered with fine, large, declamatory style, and a voice which, for strength and decision, has rarely been surpassed. It is four years since Miss Phillips last appeared, and some of the freshness of her remarkable organ has naturally passed away; it is now more massive and dramatic, but not quite so smooth and delicate. Miss Adelaide Phillips achieved her most pronounced success in the brindisi, which was, of course, rapturously applauded.

     The tenor, Signor Irfre, created a genuine sensation.  He sang with great intensity, and with a clearness and a judgment which could hardly be excelled. The romanza in the first act was surpassed in every way by the beautiful prayer which occurs in the trio of the second (Madra mia.) Although dragged slightly in the matter of time, it was delivered with electrical emphasis. In the succeeding act, Signor Irfre introduced the romanza which Mario used to sing, but which has since been eliminated from the opera. It was given with taste, grace and feeling. It is evident that in Signor Infre [sic] we have a tenor of excellent parts.

     Signor Antonuccis’ [sic] grand voice was heard to the best possible advantage in the role of the Duke.  He was entirely successful.

     Mmme. Zucchi was not in good voice in the first act, but improved as the work progressed, and was seen and heard to decided advantage in the scene that preceded Genarro’s death. The orchestra was conducted by Signor Toriani [sic].”

Review: New-York Daily Tribune, 30 September 1865, 7.


Italian opera—Academy of Music. 

          Donizetti’s opera, Lucrezia Borgia, was given at the Academy of Music last night, before a crowded and fashionable audience. All the seats were taken even to the last row of the balcony.  The Academy of Music, Brooklyn was equally crowded on Thursday evening, when Faust was performed with a success equal to that which it met on the opening night in New York. Lucrezia Borgia was strongly cast. Carozzi-Zucchi as Lucrezia, Miss Adelaide Phillips as Orsini, Signor Irfre as Gennaro, and Antonucci as Alfonso, the minor parts being most ably sustained.

          Zucchi’s personation of the libertine passionate Duchess was forcible and impressive, from the intensity of its realism. Bold, audacious, reckless, politic and dissimulating, the contrasts are powerful and rapid, and demand for their portraiture perfect control or dramatic resources. Zucchi was fully equal to the situations, and we have rarely had a more vivid and emphatic delineation of the character.  In the one tender spot in her hard nature (which, by the by, is apocrypha) Zucchi is not as successful, vocally. The character of her voice is not suited to the delicate fiorture, which characterizes the music of the first act.  All her cadences being executed in the somber voice, are labored and heavy, lacking impulse and vivacity.  If the clear voice were used, the effect would be far better, the passage would be light and brilliant, the needed contrasts would be gained, and the voice would be fresher and more telling for the phrases of passionate power.  This is an artistic blemish which we think noteworthy, but it only renders her powerfully dramatic conception of the character a little less perfect than it would otherwise be, and yet leaves it a personation remarkable for its truthfulness and vigor.

          Signor Irfre is the best Gennaro we have had since Mario, judging the character in its entirety. His reading is intelligent and dramatic, his manner natural and strongly emotional. Witness his simple yet effective rendering of the song, ‘Di Pescator,’ which has only been once better sung in this country. His voice, in its whole middle register, is by no means powerful, but he uses it like an artist, and it is agreeable, while the most effective notes of the tenor voice are with him powerful, brilliant and clarion-like, and, as he uses them, literally bring down the house.

          Miss Adelaide Phillips makes a model Orsini, looking well the part, and singing and acting it admirably.  Her rich unctuous voice, so finely trained and used with such rare skill and taste, is a luxury to listen to, and it is a cause of pride that America has produced so fine an artist and appreciates her as she deserves. Her drinking song created quite a furore, which was but a just tribute to its spirited and piquant rendering.

          Signor Antonucci, as we remarked on his first appearance, is an artist of great merit. He has a fine, sonorous voice, of tonal gravity and well cultivated. His taste is unexceptionable, and he sings with effect devoid of exaggeration. His bearing is graceful and dignified, and he is an intelligent and spirited actor.

          The great concerted effect of the opera was the finale of the first act, where Lucrezia is discovered and taunted by her victims. In this both principals and chorus exerted themselves to the utmost, producing an ensemble of rare musical excellence. The next success was the famous trio, ‘Guai se ti sfugge un moto,’ in which the whispered agony of Lucrezia, the hissed-out hatred of the Duke, and the dreamy gratitude, and faith and thankfulness were given with a vocal and dramatic effect worthy of all praise. It was vehemently and deservedly applauded and encored. The duo between the Duke and Duchess was also fine vocally and dramatically.

     The chorus sang well, and the orchestra, conducted by Signor Torriani, was handled delicately and effectively, much care being given to the fine coloring of the instrumentation. Lucrezia Borgia was emphatically a success; it pleased so well that the audience forgave the unsightly patch that adorned the sky which smiled over the street scene in Ferrara.”

Review: New-Yorker Staats-Zeitung und Herold, 30 September 1865, 6.

[Preliminary translation]

“Academy of Music. Donizetti’s ‘Lucrezia Borgia’ was given yesterday evening to a full house. The performance of this beloved opera was on par with the best performances of last season; the singers, choir and orchestra seemed to compete against one another in order to present the work in a favorable fashion.

          The performance of Mme. Carozzi-Zucchi as ‘Lucrezia’ was reviewed last season as an excellent one, so we need not repeat it here. Signor Irfre as ‘Gennaro’ was much more confident and secure than on his first night. He seemed more inspired, and therefore sang the trio in the third act with such volume and devotion that we were taken by complete surprise. The same applies to the romance of the third act. The ‘Di pescatore ignobile’ in the first act also displayed his still beautiful voice—at the expense of the other soloists—although it was sung with a strong tremolando, and in general his vocal style is frequently less artistic.

          Antonucci also sang very well and was excellent as ‘Herzog.’ Miss Adelaide Phillips, the beloved contralto, performed with her usual beautiful voice.”

Review: New York Post, 01 October 1865, 3.

“The performance of ‘Lucretia’ last Friday night was a special success for Miss Phillips, whose ‘Drinking Song’ was twice encored. Irfre, the tenor, also sang with much taste and delicacy, appearing to better advantage than in ‘Faust,’ and Antonucci was an effective and dignified representative of the Duke. Zucchi, except in the last act, was not up to her usual standard.”

Review: Courrier des √Čtats-Unis, 02 October 1865, 1.

“. . . Lucrezia Borgia, which was given Friday, offered the occasion for us to hear the three principal debuts of the new company, Mlle Phillips, M. Irfre and M. Antonucci.

          First of all, let us say that the production was most brilliant. M. Irfre did not give the lie to the hopes that we had founded at first listening to him; here is a tenor who knows how to lead his voice, a voice well timbred and very congenial. He draws out a sound with as much art and method as Brignoli, but with a much superior voice. He sang to perfection the romance of the first act and the cantabile that dominates the trio of the second. Why did he allow himself to shout in the following duo? One must leave that means to those who have no others. Let M. Irfre look after his performance; with a bit of study and good will, he will surely be more perfect. . . .

          M. Antonucci, weak in the recitatives, which he attacked with intonations that were often dubious, had his portion of success obtained by the grand trio, which was encored. In sum, this basso is an acquisition for which our opera [company] must be congratulated.

          Mlle Adelaide Phillips, visibly disturbed, wasn’t what she could have been in the first act. The brindisi of the third awarded her a great success, but she should be careful of what they say in terms of vocal placement; she should also work on her breathing, [which was] too frequent, and often badly cut off; she ended up destroying the rhythm of the pieces. She should also be on guard against certain ornaments that are in bad taste.

          If we had had the honor to make the acquaintance of Mme Carozzi-Zucchi, we would have said at the end of the performance of Lucrezia:

          ‘Madame, you have a handsome talent and neither the press nor the public have spared their praises. You are one of the most accomplished lyric artists that we have heard in New York; you unite in equal measure the art of singing and that of acting. These are precisely the beautiful qualities that you need not exaggerate. Don’t multiply your gestures; you have enough of a gift to portray passion by more sober actions, so as not to have recourse to this luxury of mimicking. Don’t let yourself get carried away by your partner any more to shout instead of singing, which is what happened to you in the final duet of the second act of Lucrezia. Without a doubt, the public, who loves shouting, will accord you greater acclaim than if you remain within healthy limits, but you are powerful enough to form public taste and to impose yourself on them, without yielding to their caprices and without encouraging their false perceptions of art.’

          We have been able to provide a detailed critique, but we should add that the ensemble was excellent. The chorus were better than they have ever been. The orchestra alone took the blame, for eluding the beat sometimes. To sum up, the first week of the opera demonstrates victoriously that we have never had such a perfect company as this year’s and that the silence or the calumnies of the Herald can’t do anything against the popularity of Maretzek and the always rising ascendency of taste for good music in New York. Let the newspaper of Jupiter of Fulton Street, as the impresario has indirectly pointed out, continue to thunder and to taint the opera with the mud with which it fills its own columns; the public will scarcely be disturbed by it; and there’s only one thing to regret: that’s that the directors of all the New York theaters don’t make common cause with that of the Italian theater. If the mask were to be torn off of this self-styled power, they wouldn’t even have the courage to uncover it; they would only yield to their own interests. . . .”

Review: New-Yorker Musik-Zeitung, 07 October 1865, 233.

[Preliminary translation]

Excerpts from a long review on multiple Maretzek Italian Opera performances.

          “The Italian opera was well attended despite the dispute between the Herald and Maretzek. . .

          The new tenor Irfre appeared and gave some excellent high notes. . .He has good breath control and sings with technique, but his approach still seems deficient to us. Perhaps we will arrive at a more favorable evaluation of him in the future. . . .

          Signor Antonucci gave a good impression as the duke. Although he does not possess a strong voice, his voice does have a melting sweetness and a beautiful sound. Furthermore, he shows taste and a well-developed technique. We believe he is a fine addition to the ensemble. . . .

          [Mad. Zucchi] was not adequate musically or dramatically for her roll. . .  .

          Miss Philipps [sic] made an agreeable impression as Nidia [in Jone], but we liked her less as Orsini, because her tastes do not suit the role.”