Manager / Director:
24 November 2015
“Herold’s popular opera, Zampa, was produced at Winter Garden last evening, before a large and fashionable house, considering the stormy weather and terrible state of the streets.
Mr. Maretzek has put the opera on the stage in as brilliant a manner as the means at his disposal would admit. All that he controlled was of the finest description, the costumes and appointments being both magnificent and costly and the stage being well dressed both as to numbers and tableaux. We have rarely seen an opera more beautifully costumed.
The performance was highly satisfactory for a first night, much of the music being well sung and well received. The ensemble pieces, though evidently carefully studied, were a little wavering, and needed just this one public rehearsal to give the artists and choristers the necessary steadiness, and enable them to judge of the vocal and dramatic effects. The orchestra, led by Mr. Carl Bergmann, was excellent throughout; the delicate and melodious orchestration of Herold was rendered with spirit, taste, and with careful coloring.
The artists, Mme. Poch, Mme. Testa, Signori Mazzoleni, Testa, Bellini, and Ronconi, were over anxious to win a success, but they did well under the circumstances. Mazzoleni made two or three palpable hits, and Poch and Testa in their duo in the second act deserved the warm applause they received. The concerted music is difficult, but was well given, and will assuredly go like clock-work on the second representation. Ronconi and Bellini were very amusing, but overacted their parts somewhat.”
Zampa was newly staged for this performance, and the excellent cast was enthusiastically received.
“The defects which were perceptible on the first representation will, we are sure, disappear to-night [i.e., Dec. 19]. The caste is in every way the strongest that has ever been offered to the public. Parts that are usually entrusted to third-rate artists are, by Mr. Maretzek, put in the hands of Signor Ronconi, Signor Bellini, &c. This fact would insure a success in any European theatre, and will we trust, have the same effect here.”
“First let’s praise M. Maretzek for having dreamed of mounting Hérold’s masterpiece. More than all others, we should be thankful to the director of the Italian Opera for bringing to light the works that are the glory of our national school. We ought to recognize him even more because there’s a prejudice spread around here that French music doesn’t exist. Didn’t the World talk about Zampa the other day as one of the pearls of the Italian repertory? We remember that two years ago, discussing M.Maretzek’s benefit performance for the Société Francaise de Bienfaisance, we said to an American journalist that the committee had chosen Fra Diavolo, because at least it was an essentially French work. Our interlocutor responded with an astonished air, “French music? But it’s Italian, just like Masaniello (la Muette).”
M. Maretzek, thank Heaven, is eclectic. He takes good things where he finds them, and he doesn’t believe that his artists won’t impress their minds with the beauties of the music that he entrusts them to interpret. In Zampa, everything that depends directly on M. Maretzek is perfect: the scenery is beautiful and the costumes are magnificent. One recognizes the taste of a man who is a veritable artist himself, and who doesn’t retreat before any expense or neglect the least detail that is within his sphere. What is outside of M. Maretzek’s powers is to make Italian singers give a good account of French and German music. The best interpreters of Rossini, Bellini and Verdi can interpret Meyerbeer, Hérold and Weber mediocrely [illegible] the same as French singers wouldn’t render Don Pasquale or Othello [sic] with the same feeling as Italian artists.
We don’t want to be partial, but frankly, Zampa was done much better recently at the Théâtre Francais than it was Monday night at the Winter Garden. There were some imperfections, but the general spirit of the work was felt and respected and you could leave the hall at Fourteenth Street saying to yourself that you had understood Hérold’s music; you couldn’t say that as much in leaving the Winter Garden. We don’t have by any means the intention of establishing any comparisons between French and Italian artists: both count great abilities between them. But for Zampa, the latter obviously have the disadvantage of not knowing the tradition, and not comprehending the genius of the music they are encountering.
Let’s first point out some regrettable cuts, for an opera like Zampa doesn’t want to be mutilated. They cut a passage of the beautiful first-act quartet; in the second act, the most beautiful part of the duet between Camille and Alphonse, Il faut quitter pour la vie, etc., was abridged; a fragment of the splendid finale of the same act was omitted; the second verse of Alphonse’s charming serenade in the third act was passed over.
The orchestra, whose role in Hérold’s works is principal, was inferior to its task; the rhythms weren’t always respected; tempos were changed; nuances were scarcely indicated; no color. The ghost of Hérold had to shudder: this splendid orchestration was unrecognizable. We could say the same for the chorus.
Among the artists, we must put M. Mazzoleni in the first rank, without contest; he perhaps found in Zampa the best of his creations. He plays the role to a marvel, and sings well in the majority of his numbers. Without a doubt, there are some final notes whose accuracy leaves a lot to be desired, but he had some excellent moments, and Monday’s performance did him honor; if all the singers had risen to his level, we wouldn’t have anything to complain about.
Along with M. Mazzoleni, Mme Natali Testa is the one who best understood her role and the master’s music. She acted the role of Rita with charming grace, which attests to an uncommon flexibility of skill on her part, and she sang no less well. Mlle Poch doesn’t make the ideal person for the role of Camille; she is adequate.
What to say about the other artists, among whom, notwithstanding, are found the great Ronconi and M. Bellini? The best is to keep silent. Tonight will be the second performance; let’s hope it’s better than the first, which would have served [better] as the dress rehearsal. We’d wish only to praise Maretzek, as we hold him in great esteem, and it’s not his fault if this Zampa isn’t the Zampa as conceived and written by the greatest French composer.”