Event Information

French Theatre

Manager / Director:
Jacob Grau

Adolph Neuendorff

Price: $20 proscenium box (four seats); $16 private box (four seats); $2 dress circle; $1.50 promenade (“not entitled to a seat”)

Event Type:
Play With Music

Record Information


Last Updated:
23 June 2016

Performance Date(s) and Time(s)

20 Sep 1866, 8:00 PM
22 Sep 1866, 8:00 PM

Program Details

American debut of Adelaide Ristori.

Performers and/or Works Performed

Text Author: Legouvé
Participants:  Adelaide Ristori (role: Medea)


Announcement: New York Clipper, 01 September 1866.

Includes names of entire troupe for the season.

Article: New-York Times, 13 September 1866, 4.

“Madame Ristori’s first day in New-York was sufficiently exciting to her and her family, but after the procurement of their trunks, which caused a delay of several hours, the party enjoyed themselves to the utmost. In the afternoon she was visited by a large number of citizens, authors, artist [sic], lawyers and clergymen. In the afternoon Madame Ristori, accompanied by her family, went to the Central Park. The enthusiasm of the strangers was continual at the beauty of our ‘City’s pride.’ After leaving the Park she went through Fifth-avenue, up Ninth street to Broadway, to Canal-street, and then returned to her hotel.”

Advertisement: New-Yorker Staats-Zeitung und Herold, 16 September 1866, 6.
Announcement: New York Post, 19 September 1866.

“The excitement about the opening night of the Ristori season increases every day, and reserved seats are held at speculative prices fearfully high. Mr. Grau has endeavored—as much as possible—to prevent anything like a monopoly of tickets by speculators, but the best manner to evade their extortions is by the purchase of season tickets. A limited number of promenade tickets will be sold for Thursday evening’s performance.”

Announcement: New York Post, 20 September 1866.

“Although New Yorkers have become so used to theatrical and other ‘stars’ that a renewal of anything like the ‘Jenny Lind fever’ is impossible, there is no little excitement about the great artist who to-night makes her first appearance before an American audience. It is an event of really great importance in the dramatic history of the country, when such an acknowledged queen of tragedy as Ristori gives us an opportunity to witness her masterly impersonations. It is not at all strange, therefore, that the demand for seats at the French Theatre has exceeded the supply. Its utmost capacity will be tested to-night, for not only is every seat taken, but a large number of promenade tickets have been sold.”

Advertisement: New-York Times, 20 September 1866, 7.

“No more than six seats will be sold to any person whatever.”

Review: New York Post, 21 September 1866.

Long review and plot summary; little about music. “The new French Theatre, on Fourteenth street, was well filled last night, and doubtless would have been crowded, had not the ticket speculators controlled so many seats. All of the better portion of the house was filled—and with one of the most intelligent and critical of audiences, embracing some of the most prominent professional men, diplomatists, scholars, authors and fashionables, with a fine representation of the beauty of the city. It is seldom that the rising of the curtain is watched so intently as was that of the French Theatre last night, and the audience were eagerly attentive until the appearance of Ristori in ‘Medea,’ with her two children, excited a welcome, hearty and spontaneous, if not extravagant.

…The orchestra, under Mr. Neuendorff’s direction, was excellent.”

Review: New-York Times, 21 September 1866, 4.

No mention of music.

Review: New-Yorker Staats-Zeitung und Herold, 21 September 1866, 8.

Large, elegant and sophisticated audience. Ristori’s performance was brilliant. She reminded us of the great German singer/ actress Wilhelmine Schröder Devrient. Ristori has the same greatness with a southern heart. One has to see her, experience her, to know what we are talking about. This might be an once-in-a-lifetime experience. Don’t miss her. This is true art.

Announcement: New York Clipper, 22 September 1866, 190.
Review: New-York Times, 24 September 1866, 5.

No mention of music.

Review: New York Clipper, 29 September 1866, 198.

Part of City Summary. No mention of music.

 “And there’s Ristori, who is playing in Italian at the French Theater. Considering the terrible ‘working up’ to which this poor lady has been subjected, the only surprise is that she even approached the lowest round of the ‘great expectations’ we had been pressed to entertain of her ‘transcendent’ histrionic abilities. To serve her up in short metre, she is a second edition of Rachel, revised, corrected, and otherwise improved… 

The public has been loaded, primed and otherwise prepared to see in Ristori the greatest tragedienne that ever walked the mimic boards, and when the reality did not come up to ‘administracione’ promises, it is not to be wondered at that the audience present on her opening night were disappointed—not that she is not a good actress, but she came far short of what the public had been tutored to expect her to be; she ‘looks’ the character well, and therein lies her power, those eyes and other facial lineaments giving a very proper interpretation of the foreign tongue in which she performs. But aside from this, she is not really a great actress, and all the ‘administracione’ buncombe will not make her more than she really is. The drama is advancing in this country; Americans judge for themselves now-a-days, instead of having ‘public opinion’ manufactured for them, as was formerly the case, and as Manager Grau has very unwisely attempted to do in the case of Madame Ristori. We have never believed that Grau’s speculation would prove a success, and since the lady has made her debut here we have even less reason to think so. Too much advance puffery, too much stuff about her daily movements, etc., have helped to cast a shadow o’er Ristori’s earliest efforts on the American stage, and this shadow will be likely to follow her in her travels through the States.” Concludes with a poem that summarizes the plot of Medea.