Anschütz German Opera: Robert le Diable

Event Information

Venue(s):
Academy of Music

Manager / Director:
Leonard Grover

Conductor(s):
Carl Anschütz

Price: $2; $1.50; $1; $.50; $.25

Event Type:
Opera

Record Information

Status:
Published

Last Updated:
3 August 2015

Performance Date(s) and Time(s)

26 Apr 1865, Evening

Program Details

Opening Night of the Season.

Opening night of the German Opera was originally scheduled for Monday, April 17, 1865, but was postponed because of Lincoln’s assassination (Gounod’s Faust was programmed). Robert le Diable was originally scheduled for April 18, 1865, but this was also postponed because of the assassination. This rescheduled performance of Robert le Diable (04/26/65) then served as opening night of the German Opera season. Mme. Rotter replaced Bertha Johannsen as Isabella. For general articles and announcements on the German Opera season, see 04/15/65 – Articles on the opening of the German Opera season.

Performers and/or Works Performed

1)
aka Robert the devil; Robert der Teufel
Composer(s): Meyerbeer
Text Author: Scribe, Delavigne
Participants:  Anschütz German Opera Company;  Anschütz German Opera, corps de ballet;  Edouard [bass-baritone] Haimer (role: Alberto);  Johanna Rotter (role: Isabella);  Karl Johann Formes (role: Bertram);  Marie Frederici (role: Alice);  Theodore Habelmann (role: Raimbaud);  Theresa Wood [dancer-voc] (role: Elena and dancer);  Franz Himmer (role: Robert)
2)
aka Grand ballet divertissement, unidentified

Citations

1)
Review: Courrier des États-Unis, 01 April 1865.

     ….We limit ourselves in passing to give well-merited praise to Mlle Frederici who, in Robert, deployed a magnificent and congenial, if not absolutely accurate, voice; and to Habelman who was excellent in the role of Raimbaud. Franz Himmer wouldn’t want us to say that he isn’t, in spite of his talent, at the level of Robert, a part almost impossible where Dupré himself has run aground. Karl Formes has a splendid bass voice, and incarnates the role of Bertrani marvelously. He would be perfect in it if he could avoid certain doubtful intonations more securely. In sum, these performances were satisfying and promise us a series which, if it doesn’t have the glitter and success of the regular winter seasons, will at least fill in the always-difficult passage between the season of abundant pleasures and the desertions of the dog-days…. 

2)
Advertisement: New-York Times, 09 April 1865, 7.

      “Commencing Easter Monday, April 17, 1865. Brief season of Grand German Opera. . . .Presenting with unexampled casts and accessories. The famous operas of the great German masters. Entire announcements of the very great company, chorus, orchestra, ballet and grand repertoire will appear in all the journals of Wednesday next, April 12.”

3)
Announcement: New York Herald, 10 April 1865, 4.

     Announces that the German Opera will begin its season on April 17.

4)
Announcement: New York Post, 10 April 1865.

     “Opening of the Opera Season. The long-postponed opening of the season of German opera, by the Grover Company, took place last night, before a large if not crowded audience. The public has not yet recovered sufficiently from the shock of the present national calamity to enter with the usual zest into public amusements. Next week both the opera and the theatre will receive a larger patronage.

     ‘Robert le Diable’ was selected for last night, and if not given with the graceful finish that has marked previous productions here of the same work, the performance was marked by some signal features. The tenor Himmer has a fine, powerful voice, and sang the part of Robert very acceptably. Carl Formes gave his well-known delineation of Bertram in good style, and seems to have caught the true idea of the part better than any one that has essayed it here. His ‘make-up’ is imposing, without being, as in the cases of some other Bertrams, hideous and repulsive. Habelman [sic] sang the part of Raimbaud creditably, and the duet between this tenor and Formes proving one of the most popular features of the evening.

     The lady singers were Frederici and Rotter, who have fresh, powerful voices, and sing conscientiously. The final trio of the opera—a morceau, which Meyerbeer himself deemed one of his finest compositions—was in every way satisfactory.”

5)
Advertisement: New York Herald, 12 April 1865.

     Very large ad, listing personnel, including names of chorus and orchestra members, and repertoire.

6)
Advertisement: New-York Times, 12 April 1865.

     List of entire company, including names of chorus and orchestra members, and repertoire.

7)
Advertisement: New York Herald, 13 April 1865.

     Advertises performance originally scheduled for April 18, 1865.

8)
Advertisement: New-York Times, 13 April 1865, 7.

     “Tuesday, April 8 [sic], only time positively of Robert Le Diable. . . .Karl Formes, in his celebrated role of Bertram, in which he has attained a world-wide reputation.”

9)
Advertisement: Courrier des États-Unis, 25 April 1865.
10)
Advertisement: New York Herald, 26 April 1865, 7.

Cast.

11)
Announcement: New-York Times, 26 April 1865, 4.

     Part of larger article on the reopening of theatres following Lincoln’s assassination. “There are two very important announcements tonight, namely, of the commencement of the German opera, under Mr. Grover’s management, at the Academy of Music, and of the opening of Mr. and Mrs. Charles at the Broadway Theatre. These enterprises have suffered severely from the late period of grief, particularly the opera, which consumes its thousands of dollars per diem. Let us hope that the season will terminate brilliantly. Mr. Grover merits success, having done all that lay in his power to produce it.”

12)
Announcement: New-York Daily Tribune, 26 April 1865, 5.

     “The brief season of German Opera under the management of Mr. Leonard Grover, which was announced for the 17th inst, and was postponed in consequence of the death of President Lincoln, will commence this evening at the Academy of Music. The opera chosen is one of Meyerbeer’s masterpieces, ‘Robert Le Diable.’ It will be very strongly cast, Franz Himmer taking the part of ‘Robert’ and Karl Formes his famous rôle of ‘Bertram.’

     The company is not only strong in principal artists, but in choral and instrumental force, and the constant practice to which the whole company is necessarily subjected by its continued performances, enables the director to present a more perfect ensemble than could be achieved under other circumstances. From present indications a crowded and brilliant audience will be present this evening at the opening.”

13)
Review: New York Herald, 27 April 1865, 4.

     “Academy of Music—German Opera. Grover’s German Opera Troupe commenced their season at the Academy last evening, after a lapse of ten days since the original announcement of their opening performance, which was deferred in consequence of the last national bereavement. Meyerbeer’s Robert le Diable was given, with Mesdames Frederici and Johannsen, Carl Formes, Himmer and Habelman in the cast. The house was well filled, but with an audience entirely different from that which the Academy is accustomed to. The absence of full toilettes was remarkable to those who have been used to see fashion represented in its most elegant form in the Academy. However, the enjoyment was apparently none the less. The artists were generally well received, Formes especially, whose acting was, as usual, very fine, calling out repeated applause. Mr. Himmer was not quite equal to some of the demands which the music makes upon a robusto tenore, his upper notes being a little weak, compelling him occasionally to resort to the falsetto, which is out of place and never acceptable. Mr. Habelman’s Raimbaud was well sung and acted with a good deal of spirit. Madame Frederici sang the part of Alice for the first time, and was therefore a little feeble, we presume from timidity, but improved as she advanced.”

14)
Review: New-York Times, 27 April 1865.

     “German Opera—Mr. Grover’s season of German opera commenced here last evening. The house was comfortably filled by an appreciative audience, our public not having yet recovered from the shock of recent events. Meyerbeer’s opera of ‘Robert il Diavolo’ was performed. The orchestra, so important in these works, was larger than that of last year, having been reinforced by many of our best resident musicians. The chorus was effective and precise in a high degree. Among the performers, Messrs. Formes and Habelmann, and Mme. Frederici, most excelled. Formes was in better voice than heretofore, and his acting was almost perfect; giving to the character of Bertram a harmonious and logical development which is rarely seen on the lyric stage. Herr Habelmann sang capitally, and was encored in the duet with Bertram, although his high notes are still defective in delivery. Mme. Frederici sang the part of Alice recognizably well. If she did not lay too much stress on her lower notes—for the purpose of showing them—she might posbly [sic] avoid the harsh intonations which struck the ear too often last evening. Her ‘Va dit elle’ was satisfactory, with the exception of the conclusion. The trio in the second act was not so good. Mme. Johannson being sick, Mme. Rotter sang the part of Isabella, and acquitted herself very creditably. The sickness of the lady named renders it necessary to give ‘Faust’ on Friday, instead of the ‘Jewess.’. . .

The ballet part of the performance was unusually well rendered, and Mlle. Wood made a very favorable impression as Helena.”

15)
Review: New-York Daily Tribune, 27 April 1865, 5.

     “The German Opera season commenced at the Academy of Music last evening. The postponement and the general mourning excitement of the past two weeks, from which the community have by no means recovered, had some effect upon the house. It was not as crowded as we expected to find it, but still it was a large and paying audience. The Opera chosen, ‘Robert le Diable,’ is certainly one of the most genuine inspirations of Meyerbeer, and the one with which the public is most familiar. It is a difficult opera to render full justice to, as it requires fresh, robust, and cultivated voice—requirements which are rarely vouchsafed at the present day. We are compelled for the sake of the art, and in the hope that kindly encouragement will lead to better things in the future, to pass over much that justly falls under critical censure, both in the materiel of the German and Italian operas. We pass over in silence, for the above reasons, many defects and physical incapacities, but we expect that all which study can accomplish, and all that care and musicianly skill can effect with the materiel within reach will certainly be done. Lapses of this kind are fair objects of criticism even in the earliest days of a country’s efforts in art. The performance of ‘Robert le Diable’ last night was nearly the most unequal performance we ever listened to; some parts most indifferently sung and others rising to high excellence.

     The gambling scene in the first act was very poorly and ineffectively rendered both by the principals and the chorus, while the duet in the second act between Rambault and Bertram, Hableman [sic] and Formes, was unquestionably the vocal success of the first four acts. The duo which followed between Alice and Bertram, Madame Frederica [sic] and Formes was vocally and dramatically good, but the succeeding unaccompanied trio for Alice, Robert (Franz Himmer) and Bertram was simply horrible in the extreme. The middle part of Formes’s voice is so worn that the intonation of some eight notes is fearfully false and uncertain. He had to commence the trio, and when he had finished it would have puzzled the most acute hear to place the pitch. The others came in haphazard, and the effect was terrible. Again it recurred, with no better result. But Formes, who is a thorough musician, felt the excessive shakiness of the affair, and felt that he must steady it; so he uttered one purely intoned note, and the other artists clung to it like drowning men to a plank, and a certain degree of harmony was restored.

     The fifth act, however, fully repaid for us all that had gone before. The music is wonderfully impassioned and beautiful exceedingly, and is a fit crown for the fine music which precedes it. The scene lies between Alice, Robert and Bertram, and is full of varied and passionate emotion, accompanied by vehement action. In this, the closing scene, the artists were worthy of high praise. They sang with infinite spirit and earnestness. They seemed to be worked up to a proper pitch of excitement, and acted admirably and powerfully. It was a great success, and we gladly accord them their full meed of praise.

     Formes is certainly a grand artist. It is a pity that the machine will not last as long as the intellect which directs it. Although his middle register is uncertain his upper and lower tones still retain much of their sonorous beauty. He always sings finely, with marked emphasis, vigorous phrasing and rare intelligence, and as an actor there are very few who can excel him.

     Himmer also sings well and is an excellent actor. His voice is rather pleasing, not strong, but he has some telling head notes which he uses much in place of genuine chest tones.

     Hableman [sic] has a very charming voice, which he uses well, and sings impressively and tastefully. He made the most of a rather small part.

     Mlle. Fredrici [sic] was the Alice, and sustained the part very effectively. She has a fine voice but much too loud, [sic] which, together with her style requires toning down. She rendered her concerted music very carefully and pleasantly.

     Mme. Rotter, who took the part of the Princess at short notice for Mme. Johannsen (who was ill) sung with much force and brilliancy. Her voice has a wide range and much power, and her singing is that of a cultivated artist. The chorus contains many fresh voices which have been well drilled, so that they sing with spirit and with accuracy. A little more light and shade would have improved the performance. The same might be said of the orchestra, which though accurate in the mere notes was not handled with sufficient delicacy, and lacked the fine shadings which we found in the orchestra of the Italian opera.”

16)
Review: Courrier des États-Unis, 01 May 1865, 1.

     [Begins with a long essay about the city in mourning.]

     “…We don’t have Italian opera any more, but we do have German opera, which inaugurated a series of productions under the direction of MM. Grover and Anschutz, with the assistance of MM. Formes, Himmer, Hermans, and of Mlle Frederici. Robert le Diable, Freyschutz [sic], and Faust have already been interpreted by these excellent artists. La Juive was announced for Friday, but was postponed due to an indisposition of Madame Johannsen. We can’t make more than a short review today, and we will come back to it. We limit ourselves in passing to give well-merited praise to Mlle Frederici who, in Robert, deployed a magnificent and congenial, if not absolutely accurate, voice; and to Habelman [sic] who was excellent in the role of Raimbaud. Franz Himmer wouldn’t want us to say that he isn’t, in spite of his talent, at the level of Robert, a part almost impossible where Dupré himself has run aground. Karl Formes has a splendid bass voice, and incarnates the role of Bertram marvelously. He would be perfect in it if he could avoid certain doubtful intonations more securely. In sum, these performances were satisfying and promise us a series which, if it doesn’t have the glitter and success of the regular winter seasons, will at least fill in the always-difficult passage between the season of abundant pleasures and the desertions of the dog-days….”