Grover German Opera: Fidelio

Event Information

Academy of Music

Manager / Director:
Leonard Grover

Adolph Neuendorff

Price: $1; $1.50 reserved; $.50 family circle; $.25 amphitheatre

Event Type:

Record Information


Last Updated:
14 April 2013

Performance Date(s) and Time(s)

25 Apr 1866, Evening

Program Details

Von Berkel replaced Rotter, who was originally scheduled to sing but fell ill, as Marcelline. Two overtures were performed but only one (No. 3, 1806) can be identified through the citations. It is likely that members of the Helvetia, Wolf-Schlucht, and Frohsinn Gesangvereins augmented the chorus as they did in the April 1866 Grover German Opera performances of Guillaume Tell. Lehman performed the role of "Don Pedro."

Performers and/or Works Performed

aka Leonore, oder Der Triumph der ehelichen Liebe; Leonore, or The Triumph of Married Love; Fidelio, oder Die eheliche Liebe;
Composer(s): Beethoven
Text Author: Sonnleithner
Participants:  Grover German Opera Company;  Mr. Damrand (role: Jaquino);  Bertha Johannsen (role: Leonora);  Minna von Berkel (role: Marcelline);  Heinrich Steinecke (role: Pizarro);  Theodore Habelmann (role: Florestan);  Otto Lehman [bass] (role: Don Pedro);  Joseph Hermanns (role: Rocco)


Announcement: New-York Daily Tribune, 25 April 1866, 4.

     “To-night Beethoven’s Opera, Fidelio, will be performed by the German Opera Company, with an excellent cast, and a very large chorus and orchestra. Fidelio is one of the few operas which stands among the thousand and one musical dramatic works, as a giant among the pigmies and a Triton among the minnows. In its scope and design it is the greatest work extant. It takes in the whole scope of the passions, treating them with a depth, an earnestness, a sublimity which we do not find in any other operatic writing, with the exception of certain individual greatnesses in Mozart.

     Those who have never heard Fidelio should go to-night to the Academy of Music and listen to a revelation of dramatic music in its grandest and most human form. The roles of Leonora and Florestan have never been equaled in intensity of pathos and earnestness of passionate expression. The concerted music and choruses are models in form and dramatic power. The instrumentation possesses all the wonderful variety, power and grandeur which distinguished Beethoven, the great master of the orchestra.

     The Germany Company execute this opera with great effect. It is one of the best works in their repertoire, and as no other company can perform it, our readers will have no other opportunity of listening to its wonderful beauties—that one musical work which displays a complete mastery over the feelings of the human soul. To-night will be its only performance as the season closes this week.”

Advertisement: New-York Times, 25 April 1866, 7.
Review: New-York Times, 25 April 1866, 4.

     “[Fidelio] is a favorite with all the Germans, and indeed with all other who regard a high purpose in art. The distribution includes the best artists of Mr. Grover’s troupe, and the ensembles will be given, we have no doubt, with the brilliant effect which was so enjoyable in ‘William Tell.’ The three singing societies who assisted in the latter work will cooperate in the celebrated chorus of prisoners. We anticipate a performance of unusual interest, and advise our reeders [sic] to assist at it.”

Announcement: New York Post, 25 April 1866.

     “The opera will be presented with the same cast as that which rendered it successful in Boston.”

Advertisement: New-Yorker Staats-Zeitung und Herold, 25 April 1866, 6.
Review: New-York Daily Tribune, 26 April 1866, 5.

     “The opera of Fidelio was performed last night at the Academy of Music to a very large and thoroughly appreciative audience. The chief characters were sustained by Madame Johannsen, Madame Von Berkel (Madame Rotter being sick), M. Habelman [sic], M. Damrand, M. Steinecke and M. Hermans [sic].

     Of the music of this work it is impossible to write a just or appreciative notice at so late an hour. The world wide reputation of Beethoven’s wonderful music needs, indeed, from us but the heart-felt acknowledgment of the unqualified delight which we have received from listening to its profound and unapproachable beauties. In dramatic force, intensity of expression, and passionate declamation in their highest form Fidelio stands unequaled in the whole range of operatic music. We deeply regret that it cannot be repeated.

     Madame Johannsen deserves the warmest praise for her conscientious and admirable rendering of the rôle of Leonora. Her voice was in excellent order, clear, steady and resonant, and she sang and acted with an earnestness and dramatic power far beyond our expectations. We know no singer in the city who could have done such thorough justice to the difficult but magnificent rôle.

     Florestan was finely rendered by Mr. Habelman. His scena is one of the most trying of dramatic compositions, but he mastered it most ably, and throughout the concerted music he was equally able and conscientious, acting also with spirit and earnestness. Hermans [sic] as Rocco was, as he always is, faithful and competent, his magnificent voice telling out with excellent effect.

     Fidelio abounds with concerted music, splendid in construction, and by no means easy to master; much of it was excellently well sung, and encored, but other numbers were a little marred by the inequality of the voices, Madam Von Berkel not being quite equal to the rôle and she was called on to sustain, and not too perfect. We do not intend to mention Herr Steinecke, and therefore omit his name. The choruses, especially the final to the first act, were effectively rendered, and the orchestra, as a whole, saving a want of color, performed well, developing the wondrous beauties with which the score abounds.”

Review: New-York Times, 26 April 1866, 4.

     “Mr. Grover was rewarded last evening with a fine and fashionable audience. The opera—as we have previously announced—was ‘Fidelio.’ To speak of this work in any terms of criticism or praise would be presumptious [sic]. It has taken the highest place in music, and rightly or wrongly is accepted as the culmination of all that is great in emotion or mind. The story is certainly interesting, and the music old fashioned, but beautiful. Much of the latter is used in churches at the present day, which shows its sublimity.

     The performance last evening was not noticeably good in the first act. In the second it was admirable. The duo (Mme. Johanssen and Mr. Habelmann) was passionately and dramatically rendered. From the entry of Pizarro (Mr. Steinecke) to the end of the act nothing could scarcely have been better. The opening scena of Florestan was finely rendered. It is rare that we find a lyric singer with so much dramatic power as Mr. Habelmann.

     The chorus generally was good, but not unusually strong. The orchestra was excellent. Owing to the indisposition of Mme. Rotter, a substitute had to be found for the part of Marcelline. The management fortunately secured the services of Mme. von Berkel, who without rehearsal, and with no preparation save that which memory brought to her aid, played the part at short notice. Under these trying circumstances she did very well. Mme. Johanssen and Mr. Hermans [sic] were both in good voice. The lady distinguished herself by a thorough perception of her part, which we may add, is one of the most earnest and pathetic in the entire range of the lyric drama. Mr. Hermans [sic] was hardly inferior in his identification of the part of Rocco. We are sorry that the opera cannot be given again, for its repetition would, we are sure, remove all the reserved objections which we have to its performance last night.”

Review: New-Yorker Staats-Zeitung und Herold, 26 April 1866, 8.

"The event was well attended. The performance of this opera did not live up to the ones last season. Only one or two of the soloists were able to fulfill the vocal requirements of their parts, which ask for strong voices. Even the chorus and orchestra performances were lacking the nuances they used to have. Mme von Berkel filled in for Rotter and did satisfactorily with what she could offer. Hermanns sang and acted decently, whereas Johannsen was struggling somewhat vocally. She did compensate, though, with a lively and attentive dramatic performance. Steinecke’s voice has lost its strength significantly, since we heard him sing last year. Last night he tried in vain to excel in his part. Some numbers of the opera were sung well, for example the beautiful quartet in the first act, which was repeated."

[Preliminary translation]

Review: New-York Times, 27 April 1866.

     “In our notice of ‘Fidelio,’ yesterday, we omitted to mention the splendid performance of the two fine overtures to that opera, which were played on that occasion. The second, especially, was grandly performed, and met with a well-deserved encore. This compliment was due to the spirited style in which Mr. Nuendorf [sic] conducted them.”

Review: New-Yorker Staats-Zeitung und Herold, 28 April 1866, 4.

"Up until now Habelmann had excelled as a lyrical tenor with his resonant voice and tender acting performance, however, here he proved he can also shine with intense dramatic effects all the way from exuberant joyfulness to the deepest misery. (…)"

[Preliminary translation]