Grover German Opera: Guillaume Tell

Event Information

Academy of Music

Manager / Director:
Leonard Grover

Adolph Neuendorff

Price: $1 parquet, dress circle; $.50 family circle; $.25 amphitheater; $.50 extra for reserved seat

Event Type:

Record Information


Last Updated:
14 April 2013

Performance Date(s) and Time(s)

18 Apr 1866, Evening

Program Details

First performance of Guillaume Tell in New York in ten years. Members of the Helvetia, Wolfsschlucht, and Frohsinn Gesangvereins augmented the chorus.

Performers and/or Works Performed

Composer(s): Rossini
Text Author: Jouy
Participants:  Helvetia Männerchor;  Wolfsschlucht Gesangverein;  Frohsinn Gesangverein;  Grover German Opera Company;  Mme. [vocalist] Pickaneser (role: Hedwig);  Joseph Weinlich (role: Gessler);  Johanna Rotter (role: Mathilde);  Wilhelm Formes (role: Tell);  Theodore Habelmann (role: Jacques);  Alphonse Urchs [Grover German Opera] (role: Mlechthal);  Otto Lehman [bass] (role: Leuthold);  Franz Himmer (role: Arnold);  Sophie Dziuba (role: Jemmy);  Joseph Hermanns (role: Walther Furst);  Edouard [bass-baritone] Haimer (role: Rudolph)


Advertisement: New-Yorker Staats-Zeitung und Herold, 11 April 1866.
Advertisement: New-Yorker Staats-Zeitung und Herold, 13 April 1866.

Includes list of chorus members, “the greatest chorus in the land:”

1st Sopranos (6):  Miss Herewagen, Mrs. Dornbrach, Mrs. Berger, Miss Glesiebel, Mrs. Keutgen, Miss Deetz

2nd Sopranos (8):  Miss Beyer, Miss Herre, Mrs. Hübsch, Mrs. Meyer, Mrs. Taubert, Mrs. Bötter, Miss Berger, Miss Benners, Miss Herters

1st Tenor (8):  Herr Biereck, Weitzgerber, Diehm, Hubner, Schlosser, Riedel, Schnorr, Arber

2nd Tenor (8):  Herr Finsheim, Kiebs, Bunzmannt, Weihnacht, Huck, Garber, Ferber, Bösing

1st Bass (8):  Lehmann, Haimer, Albrecht, Piobringer, Ezeneck, Carmer, Algoberger, Liesen

2nd Bass (10):  Kerrel, Urchs, Kohn, Fray, Fleck, äicardi I, Schwicardi II, Schneeberger, Gerber, Hunelti

NOTE:  This list of chorus members is also probably for the performance of Faust (04/17/66), and certainly for the rest of the German Opera season.

[Preliminary translation]

Advertisement: New-York Times, 18 April 1866, 7.

     “In the grand ruetli scene the singing societies helvetia, wolfsschlucht, and frohsinn have kindly volunteered, augmenting the chorus to 150 voices, the largest choral force that has appeared in any opera in this country.”

Announcement: New York Post, 18 April 1866.

     “To-night the house should be crowded, for it has been over ten years since a New York audience has had the pleasure of listening to a performance of ‘William Tell,’ which is the programme for the evening.”

Review: New-York Daily Tribune, 19 April 1866, 4.

     “Last night the opera of William Tell was performed by the German Opera Company. This opera is the grandest of all Rossini’s compositions, and like his Il Barbiero, has stood the test of time and criticism in every country. The overture has been adopted as one of the few concert overtures wherever grand orchestras are gathered together. The opera itself is rich in every class of dramatic music—solos, duos, trios, ensemble pieces and choruses—all of which are models in their respective forms—and have hardly been excelled in pure melody, constructive beauty and masterly treatment. The instrumentation is richly varied, and the color is dashed with that freedom and brilliance which characterized the sparkling genius, the keen, ready and comprehensive mind of the great maestro, Rossini.

     There were some points about the performance of this opera that can challenge any previous representation. The overture was played with such precision, force and spirit, and such attention to delicate coloring and contrast, that it won a determined and enthusiastic encore. The choruses were simply the finest we have ever heard on the Academy stage. In the great Ruetli scene, the three choirs were sustained by the members of the three German singing societies with whose names we are not familiar, the Helvetia, Wolfsschlucht [sic], and Frosheim [sic], but they sang magnificently. We have never heard finer chorus singing on any stage, and the performance was so manifestly admirable that it arouse the audience, which crowded the Academy from the parquet to the amphitheater, to the highest enthusiasm. It was, indeed, a performance worth coming 50 miles to hear, or make a solitary walk to Harlem after the opera endurable. The choruses all through were equally excellent.

     The principal singers sustained themselves most successfully. Madame Rotter shone to far higher advantage in Mathilde than in Marguerite, singing her music in a thoroughly musicianly way, and acting with great spirit. Mlle. Dziuba was also good. Wilhelm Formes is a most excellent artist. His voice, though it lacks somewhat in volume, is sweet and pure in tone, and he sings with spirit and emphasis. Himmer, the tenor, more grazia than forza, and consequently rather overmatched by the rôle, seemed inspired by the great music and the crowded and brilliant audience, and sang really admirably. Mr. Wienlich [sic], who took Hermans’s [sic] part, he being sick, acquitted himself unexpectedly well. He sang in such a musicianly spirit that we could excuse the absence of Hermans [sic]. To the conductor, Mr. Neuendorff, we must award unqualified praise. He is a young man, but he shows the making of a fine conductor. The manner in which he kept the orchestra and the huge chorus in hand showed a mastery and control over his material which but very few in his position possess.

     This opera, as a whole, was a really great success, and will draw at least two more brilliant and overflowing houses.”

Review: New-York Times, 19 April 1866, 4.

Begins with review of the 04/17/66 performance of Faust.

     "Last evening Mr. produced Rossini’s greatest work, ‘William Tell.’ The house, we are glad to say, was crowded to its greatest capacity, and crowded, too, as we would like to see it on all occasions, by the masses. The performance opened suspiciously with the overture, which was hailed vigorously, and redemanded. The conductor bowed his thanks, and played the allegro. The success was due more to force of tempo and power of percussion than to delicate perception of contrast. This remark, in a limited degree, applies to the whole orchestral performance—which, to our thinking, was coarse. Our objections will, we are happy to say, end here. Mr. Grover—with no wealth of Italian voice at his command—is entitled to the credit of having played a difficult and embarrassing opera much better than it has been played before. The chorus was well drilled—we speak of it first because it plays so important a part in this work—and unusually large. The members of it sang vigorously and well. We doubt if the meeting of the Cantons has ever been so largely presented, or the different characters so closely defined. If for nothing else, the opera should succeed for this—as it did—and be repeated. But there is much more to praise. Mr. Himmer’s Arnold was a fine artistic performance—so artistic that the defects to which we have elsewhere referred were forgotten in the surprise and pleasure of a clear, manly and truly dramatic performance. Even in the duo of the second act, where the scantiness of his voice compelled him to resort to the falsetto, he was steady, unmusicianlike, and pleasing. Mr. William Formes made his first appearance on the occasion in the title-role. He has a free baritone voice; not sufficiently deep for serious declamation, but free and agreeable to the ear, and thoroughly within his control. The opening impression was not favorable, owing to a perceptible trepidation; but in every subsequent effort he improved. The superb trio of the conspiration scene owed much of its success to his excellent singing. This piece, indeed, could hardly have been given better. Messrs. Himmer, Formes and Steinecke were alike good. Mr. Habelman [sic], in his single solo of the first act, rendered full justice to it. He has a beautiful voice, and knows how to use it to the best advantage. The remaining parts are small but important. We do not desire to disturb a plain impression of pleasure by speaking of them. It will suffice that they were interpreted creditably. If the opera be repeated we suggest to our readers that they witness it. In completeness of ensemble, and in many points of detail it is a credit alike to Mr. Grover’s company and to Mr. Grover’s management.”

Review: New York Post, 19 April 1866.

     "The second night of Mr. Grover’s season was a success, in spite of the absence of car facilities, which must have made a very great difference in the size of the audience, the Academy was well filled. The performance of the opera ‘William Tell’ was throughout satisfactory, and in some passages really grand. Mr. Grover’s promise that he would have the largest chorus ever assembled on the operatic stage in this city was entirely fulfilled; and the chorus was not merely remarkable for its size, but much more for the spirit, correctness and effectiveness with which its work was done. It was richly worth going to the Academy to listen to the grand chorus in the finale of the second act, where the Swiss cantons come together to pledge their devotion and services to the cause of their country’s enfranchisement from the tyranny of Gessler.

     The soloists performed their parts considerably better than on Tuesday night, when they had not got accustomed to the peculiar acoustic effects of the Academy, and so strained their voices in some passages, while they failed to have enough volume and power in others. Madame Rotter appeared to much better advantage than as Marguerite in ‘Faust,’ a character entirely unsuited to her, and sang some brilliant passages with effect—the main difficulty being that she seems to labor too much to achieve effects, and that occasionally her voice is rather hard. Mr. Himmer, as Arnold, was also more successful than in ‘Faust.’ He lacks genius for acting, however, and his falsetto—although very well done—is not altogether pleasing. Mlle. Dziuba took the part of Jammy [sic] with the same ease and greacefulness that she had shown in that of Siebel. We were disappointed in Mr. Wilhelm Formes, who neither came up to the dramatic conception of William Tell, nor showed much evidence of the superior vocal powers claimed to him. Mr. Habelmann, who took the part of Jacques, has a good voice, and used it well. Mr. Weinlich, particularly in the concerted passages, was excellent, always doing well, and sometimes much more than that.

     The management of the orchestra by Mr. Neuendorf deserves some especial notice. He may be somewhat too enthusiastic occasionally, but this is an excusable fault when he uniformly infuses so much of his own energy and spirit into the performers beneath his baton. The grand and brilliant overture has seldom been better performed here than it was last night, and the encore it received was well deserved.”

Review: New-Yorker Staats-Zeitung und Herold, 19 April 1866, 8.

"The event was sold out. The success of it is mostly based on the performance of the chorus and orchestra; only a few of the solo performances were appealing. Wilhelm Formes, Himmer, Habelmann and Weinlich did satisfactorily. The choruses Helvetia, Wolfsschlucht and Frohsinn participated in the grand finale of the second act and contributed to its effectiveness. Neuendorff conducted with understanding and sensitivity. The overture was performed so impressively that it was repeated."

[Preliminary translation]

Announcement: New York Clipper, 21 April 1866, 14.
Advertisement: New York Clipper, 21 April 1866, 15.

Complete cast list.

Review: New York Clipper, 28 April 1866, 22.

Part of review of performance of Faust on 04/17/66.

     “On the 18th ‘William Tell’ was given, with William Formes in the principal role. The attendance on both evenings was good.”