Academy of Music
Manager / Director:
27 April 2013
“On Monday, April 2, a short subscription season of six nights will commence, and the first opera produced will be ‘The Huguenots.’ There will be a rehearsal every day of this, the greatest of Meyerbeer’s works, and we expect, from the care taken in its production, that the performance will be worthy of the work.”
"Academy of Music.—Although the doors of the Academy are temporarily closed to the public, there is no lack of industry within them. The forces are engaged from morning till night in the rehearsal of Meyerbeer’s greatest work, ‘Les Huguenots,’ which will be produced on Monday with a caste better in almost every leading respect than we have yet had in this City. Mr. Maretzek announces, too, that the orchestra and chorus will be increased, and that the scenery, costumes, properties and appointments are new….It says something for the management that it can, in a single season, put on the stage four of Meyerbeer’s works in a satisfactory manner. ‘Robert le Diable,’ ‘L’Africaine,’ ‘L’Etoile du Nord’ and ‘Les Huguenots’ are the works referred to.”
“There is a temporary cessation of opera, but none in the labors of Mr. Maretzek and his company, who are most actively engaged in rehearsals of Meyerbeer’s grandest production, ‘Les Huguenots,’ which will be presented next Monday night. Mr. Maretzek promises an increased orchestra and chorus—and this opera needs it—and entirely new costumes and appointments. From this handsome manner in which he has fulfilled his engagements the past season, the public will be inclined to put full faith in these promises.”
“The production of Meyerbeer’s Huguenots attracted a brilliant audience last evening. We remember all sorts of casts to this opera; we remember its first production at the Park Theater, Aug. 8, 1845, by the French Opera Company from New-Orleans. The cast was strong in general excellence, but the stars were the Raoul, Mme. Arnoud, and the Marcel, Mme. Douvry, both grand dramatic singers. Mlle. Calve, the Valentin, was an artist in method, manner and costume, singing and acting with spirit and passion, but lacking in the heroic sentiment. But she was charming, and so were Cassini and Richer, the Marguerite and Urbain. The present cast has stronger points in Zucchi, Phillips, Mazzoleni and Bellini. Antonucci is also excellent, but lacks sonority in the lower tones. The whole voice, indeed, for such a part, needs a profundity and gravity to give due weight to the music, and render the character sufficiently impressive.
Zucchi and Mazzoleni were the great successes of the evening. They had studied their rôles earnestly and intelligently, and sang them with marked force and effect. Mazzoleni sang his aria in the first act with much dramatic expression, and he was especially admirable in the whole of the second act. His duo in the fourth act with Valentin, was marked by intense tenderness, and earnest pathos, and a force of expression which was vividly real. Zucchi created a furor in her duo with Marcello in the third act. She conceived it, and sang grandly, and received the well-deserved honor of an encore. When these two artists feel more at home in these, to them, new rôles, we shall rank them among the very best of their efforts.
Miss Adelaide Phillips was the realization of a dashing and shapely Page, and sang her beautiful arias with exquisite taste and grace.
Antonucci sang the music of Marcel excellently well, with due appreciation and dramatic emphasis, but as we have said, his voice lacks depth and gravity of quality. Bellini and Ardavani were careful and acceptable in their rôles, and did all they had to do well.
Mdlle. Ciroli is quite unequal to the rôle of Marguerite. The other characters were ably filled. The choruses were all well sung, some of them with much effect. The Huguenot chorus in the third act was given with so much spirit and accuracy that it gained all the honors of an encore. The orchestra performed with more spirit and effect than accuracy or delicacy. The time devoted to the production of the opera was too short to achieve anything like perfection. What has been accomplished is readily wonderful, and would hardly have been achieved in any other country. The whole work had an air of incompleteness, and in many places the roughness was very apparent.”
“Academy of Music.—Meyerbeer’s opera of ‘Les Huguenots’ was revived last evening by Mr. Maretzek. Having been carefully rehearsed and liberally put on the stage, its success was, of course, insured. It would have attracted large and enthusiastic audiences at any period of the season. An additional point in its favor just now is the existence of a sort of Meyerbeer fanaticism. Look where we will we find the works of the maestro occupying the places of honor. The music which was accepted charily ten years ago is now listened to with the greatest avidity, and yet it has certainly not improved with age. Consider the melodies of ‘Robert le Diable’—an opera which, in point of inspiration, is second to none. They are dry, without perfume, and elaborately tiresome. All that remains of interest is the plan of the whole opera. We must still admire the admirable proportions, the conscientious workmanship, the skill with which everything is rounded off, and the successful appeal thus brought to bear on the common instinct for show as well as sound. This same plan has been followed more or less successfully in ever subsequent work except ‘Dinorah,’ which was pastoral, weird, romantic, in its character [sic]. The deviation was by no means fortunate, and the experiment was regarded by Meyerbeer as a failure. Of the six operas written during the last thirty years by this composer we have had during the present Winter no fewer than four; ‘Robert le Diable,’ ‘L’Africaine,’ ‘L’Etoile du Nord,’ and ‘Les Huguenots.’ We give them in the order of their production. Placed according to their merit the last should be first. The subject of ‘Les Huguenots’ is both picturesque and terrible. The gradual growth of that stern and intolerant spirit which led finally to the massacre of St. Bartholomew, the clashing of the hostile elements, the grim devotion of either side, and the incident of Valentine, a Catholic, loving Raoul, a Huguenot, and trying in vain to warn him of his danger, present the composer with the scenic contrasts and emotional effects which he knew so well how to use. The treatment is animated, and except in the last act where a brutal street slaughter is introduced, never superfluous. The first act is gallant and spirited; the second extremely picturesque and graceful; the third extraordinarily varied in its action; the fourth, grand and supremely impressive. The solos and concerted pieces are strikingly effective; the former possessing a popular element in the contralto and light soprano rôles which make them popular to all ears. We need not dwell on the choruses, or the admirable coloring of the orchestral background. They have withstood the praise of indiscreet friends, and the detraction of stupid foes. There is no opera in the modern repertoire so large in these respects. Every bar exhibits the sensibility of a thoroughly cultured mind; every ensemble the intelligent purpose of the true dramatic composer.
The caste of this massive and interesting work was, in many respects, better than we have before had it. The principal rôles were instructed to well-accepted and competent artists. The Valentine of Tucchi [sic] was a fine, passionate interpretation of a part which demands for its just illustration the first qualities of a dramatic singer and an actress. The duet with Marcel was encored, and deservedly so. In the great scene with Raoul in the fourth act, Mme. Zucchi was also seen and heard to the best advantage. The importunate hero was sustained by Signor Mazzoleni and with all that characteristic gallantry of bearing and breadth of style which we have so often commended. Signor Mazzoleni was in capital voice, although over anxiety caused him on a single occasion to lose control of it. We think that he has had no superior in Meyerbeer’s operas, and this notwithstanding the fact that the music occasionally was a little high for his voice. Signor Antonucci’s Marcel was a careful and solid performance. The gruff old Puritan did not gain any fresh amiability at his hands, but the music was given with more than ordinary truthfulness and effect. Signor Bellini as St. Bris was laboring under the weather, and had to force his voice in the third and fourth acts. When he is in good trim, he will certainly be the best St. Bris we have ever had. Signor Ardavani was excellent as De Nevars, and Miss Adelaide Phillips left nothing to be desired as the Page. We wish we could say the same of Mlle. Carioli, but this is impossible. The orchestra and chorus were very good. Indeed, when we remember that this is a work which has been heavily rehearsed—to the exhaustion of every one—we can hardly remember a better first performance. The misè-en-scene was, as heretofore, brilliant and admirable. Notwithstanding a liberal use of the pruning-knife, the performance did not terminate until near midnight. The applause was frequent, but encores were avoided. After the fourth act, Mme. Zucchi and Signor Mazzoleni were called out four times.”
“The production of the grandest and most elaborate of Meyerbeer’s operas, at the close of a long season marked by [illeg.] variety, was a daring enterprise on the part of Mr. Maretzek, especially in view of the fact that none of the leading artists in his company have ever before assumed the parts assigned them. We believe, however, that the most of the large and brilliant audience who last night crowded the Academy will agree with us that a positive success was achieved. With the exception of Mdlle. Cairoli, who failed to come up to the rôle of Marguerite, the cast was excellent. Zucchi was especially successful. Always acting well in parts demanding earnest and passionate fervor, she filled the part of Valentine with unusual fidelity and effectiveness even for her, and sang with more than her ordinary power and pathos. Indeed, Zucchi and Mazzoleni won the highest honors of the evening. Having the most prominent parts, and abundant ‘intuitions’ favorable to fine effects, they both seemed to have done their best and to have mastered their rôles conscientiously, although we doubt not that they will improve in successive performances. Miss Adelaide Phillips had not such a part as we could desire for the display of her rich and splendid vocalizations, but in that which was allotted her—the rôle of the Page—gave more than a hint of what she can do when she has an opportunity. Her two arias were sung with an artistic finish and expressiveness that were highly appreciated. Her acting was perfect in its way.
Bellini was, as he always is, true to his part, and filled it well. The choruses were, in the main, excellent, especially for the grand ‘Conjuration scene,’ where the assistance of the Arion Society was very effective. The ‘Huguenots’ will be repeated to-night, no doubt with improvements in the execution of details.”
The event was overcrowded with the typical audience of Meyerbeer operas, which distinguishes itself clearly from the “usual” opera evenings. The Meyerbeer audience consists mostly of Germans, French, Italians, etc. It is much more demanding than the Verdi, Bellini, Donizetti audience. The worst audience members are the ones who always speak of the European performances as much better. The new fashion spring collection was exhibited in the choice of wardrobe of the audience last night.
Maretzek cast the roles of this biggest opera of the lyrical stage as best as possible. Mazzoleni and Zucchi fit their roles perfectly. The grand duet in the third act was performed so brilliantly that the audience, which was unmoved until then, broke out into spontaneous, enthusiastic applause. Antonucci proved again that although he does not possess a great voice, he knows how to use it skillfully. Bellini’s performance was also noteworthy. Miss Philipps was satisfactory only in a few scenes. The performance of the opera was, except for a few insecurities in the ensemble numbers, a good one.
The Germans seem to be overcritical; so were some of the audience members here, who were focusing merely on the little imperfections of an otherwise flawless performance. We shall be satisfied when the chorus and orchestra are doing well and the soloists fill their parts. Exactly this was the case in this performance, except for the casting of the “Queen.” Mazzoleni and Zucchi’s duet in the fourth act was captivatingly fiery and energetic and was repeated four times. Antonucci did not measure up to Formes; however, Formes is hard to live up to. Antonucci’s performance was still noteworthy.