Academy of Music
Manager / Director:
26 April 2013
“The crowning musical event of this week” is this production. “Mr. Maretzek has had this elaborate work in preparation for several weeks.”
“It has not been played since 1856, when it made a tremendous success. We anticipate for it a similar reception. In general variety of the action and peculiar coloring of the music, it is, we think, the best work of the maestro.”
“The chief point of interest on this occasion, apart from the truly fine music, is the assumption of the principal role, a very difficult one, by our American singer, Miss Clara Louisa Kellogg.”
“Mr. Maretzek, last night, amply fulfilled the promises that he has made in regard to the production of Meyerbeer’s grand spectacular drama, ‘L’Etoile du Nord,’ and added to his managerial laurels. The choruses, particularly that in the second scene of the first act, were well given, and showed the effects of pretty thorough training. This first chorus is exceedingly energetic and powerful, and was not only rendered without lagging, but with real spirit and force. The scenery and costumes were new, appropriate, and well gotten up.
Miss Kellogg, as Catherine, fully came up to her reputation, and enhanced it by a new display both of her vocal powers and of her ability as an actress in a part of unusual difficulty. Her welcome, as she appeared in the first act, showed how strong a hold she has gained on the admiration of our public, and she, in turn, from the outset, proved how well she deserves it. She was called out three times, and was frequently and warmly applauded. The closing scene gave her a fine opportunity of displaying her ability in the difficult achievements of vocalization, while the beautiful song in the tenth scene of the third act was given with an expressiveness and pathos rarely recalled. Mlle. Bosisio as Prascovia had fewer opportunities for the display of her conceded powers, but performed her part well. She was especially happy in the duet with Miss Kellogg in the twelfth scene of the first act, in which both were excellent, and fairly won the hearty encore they received.
Signor Irfre as Danilowitz, and Signor Antonnucci a Peter, were each equal to their parts, although we think that the temperament and physique of the latter are not exactly suited to the character he had to assume.
As a whole the opera was given in a manner creditable to Mr. Maretzek and to his company. It seemed throughout to be keenly enjoyed by one of the largest and finest audiences we have ever seen at the Academy.”
The event was very well attended. Despite the glamour of the new costumes, the performance was not satisfactory. It would have needed more thorough rehearsals. Kellogg did not fit the role of ‘Catarina’, either musically or dramatically. Her voice does not possess the required low range and her acting skills were not sufficient to portray the masculine aspects of the part. However; some songs for example the “echo aria” she sang beautifully and she was warmly received by the audience for it. The role of the ‘Czar’ required lower ranges than Antonucci could offer. Also the ensemble numbers would have needed a stronger voice than Antonucci’s. One little song in the second act, which was well within his range, was performed very beautifully. Bosisio as ‘Prasconia’ fit her part perfectly and had to repeat her duet with Kellogg, which was enthusiastically requested by the audience.
(…) This performance is very difficult, as was obvious on its first night. Probably the next performances will be better, however; that would be hard to imagine with a voice-less tenor such as Irfre. Ms. Kellogg was also less efficient in her role. Her voice was lacking the refinement she usually shows in other parts. By the way, this part is very difficult vocally and dramatically.
The staging of the opera was very good, and the choruses sang very efficiently.
“The opera of’ L’Etoile du Nord’ was introduced ten years ago to our public by Mr. Maretzek, who now revives it in obedience to a general desire for more of Meyerbeer's music. [Gives a great deal of detail concerning the work’s performance history, especially in New York.] The opera comes back to us as a pleasant friend. The music has lost none of its charms, and now that the composer who penned it is dead, most people will agree in saying that it is good. The melodies possess more than average variety and saliency. They are quaint and agreeable, possessing, in most instances, a marked rhythmical character. The ensembles are invariably good, and as in the finale to the second act, display the ingenious mastery of the many themes which Meyerbeer possessed. The whole of the second act is filled with happy dramatic effects; the characteristic of each group of singers being firmly preserved yet dexterously contrasted with other groups. The orchestral portion of the work is in the highest degree interesting. There is hardly a dreary bar in it, from the overture to the finale. Mr. Maretzek has acted judiciously in reviving a work which, taken at its proper value, leaves nothing to be desired. Nor should it be forgotten that the drama in itself is amusing. The story is of Peter the Great in his shipbuilding days. It has been broadly made known to the stage in the ‘Burgomaster of Saardam.’ In the humble guise of a laborer the monarch falls in love with Catarina, who, after much tribulation and a touch of insanity, becomes his queen.
The very late hour at which we write compels us to be brief. The performance last evening was a fair one. The artist knew their parts, the chorus was admirable and the orchestra was respectable. But it was apparent from the opening that these masses had not been sufficiently moulded into a whole. There were numerous blurts which brought momentary dismay to the ear, and which will undoubtedly disappear on the next performance. The role of Catarina suits Miss Kellogg, but it taxes the compass of her voice, especially in the best known morceau—the Rondo Bohemienne. The brilliant passages were, strange to say, not always unbroken. The prayer and barcarolle which terminate the first act were finely rendered by the lady. In the second and third acts the music lies more pleasantly within her reach, and she delivered it with exquisite ability. It is not in our power to say much for Mlle. Bosisio, except perhaps that she was not much worse than Miss Susan Pyne, who played the part ten years ago. Signor Antonucci was a placid but tuneful Peter, and Signor Irfre warmed up in the last act. There are many small parts in the opera, which make it difficult to cast. Of these we may speak hereafter. For the moment it is sufficient to record a very decided success, and to add that the work has been placed on the stage in a thoroughly sumptuous and satisfactory manner by Mr. Maretzek. There are few works in the repertoire which contain so much for both eye and ear.”
“L’Etoile du Nord, as originally produced, or La Stella del Nord, as the Italians put it, was presented . . . for the first time since 1856, to a very large, critical and ultra-fashionable audience. In accordance with the announcements, this revival of Meyerbeer’s spectacular semi-serio opera appeared in all the brilliancy of splendid mise en scene, well-imagined costumes, admirable groupings and grand tableaux in the two first acts, after which the interest declines by anti-climax, depending solely upon Catrina’s [sic] execution of the air with flutes obligato, and so is rather tame in comparison.
Miss Kellogg won, in the execution of Caterina’s extremely difficult music, the most distinguished honor that has yet been awarded her. With the keen remembrance of Madame De La Grange’s performances of those difficulties yet fresh, we must concede Miss Kellogg a full equality with that highly gifted vocalist in all respects, except strength of tone and depth of expression, where the situation calls for those great attributes of a prima donna. In neatness, precision and brilliant vocalization, her performance left but little to be desired. Both her singing and acting displayed vivacity, sensibility, and artistic finish, and received, as they deserved, the most enthusiastic commendation. The superb basket of flowers presented her well represented that unanimous assent to her excellence which all felt and expressed.
Mlle. Bosisio obtained that evening a much higher estimation with the New-York public than heretofore, as she sang her music tastefully and spiritedly, and her enactment of the part was enlivened by a graceful and naïve manner. In the duet with Miss Kellogg she fairly surprised and astonished those who on previous occasions had formed a very unfavorable opinion of her ability and her education. She sang up to Miss Kellogg, and shared in the enthusiastic applause, which did not cease until a repetition was accorded.
The other artists in the cast, Antonucci, Irfre and Sarti, appeared to but little advantage; in fact, they were scarcely respectable representatives of their respective characters. They were tame and feeble in vocal utterance, soulless and inanimate in treatment of exciting passages.
Signor Torriani had too great a responsibility imposed upon him, when the direction of this performance fell to his lot in consequence of difficulties between a prima donna and a confessedly most efficient and masterly conductor.
There is sufficient attraction, however, in the performance of Miss Kellogg and Mdlle. Bosisio, with the good chorus and spectacular display, to insure for this opera liberal remuneration for the large outlay made by Mr. Maretzek in mounting it so well as he certainly has done.”