Benjamin Lumley in Her Majesty's Theatre - 3 March, 1846

from Reminiscences of the Opera, pages 144-6:

Considerable curiosity had been excited respecting the new decorations of Her Majesty's Theatre; so that when, on the 3rd of March, the season of 1846 opened, the theatre was crowded in every part. Of these gorgeous, and at the same time tasteful embellishments, a general approval prevailed; whilst the aspect of the vast and elegant interior, in its fresh and magnificent array, struck every eye. Curiosity had been more legitimately, although perhaps less eagerly, excited by the striking novelties which the first night of the season was to produce. The "Nabucco" of Verdi, a work which was popular on the Continent, and had in some places caused a perfect furore, was selected to inaugurate the new salle. That Verdi had already made way against his wholesale detractors, was rendered evident by the generally better feeling with which the music of "Nabucco" was accepted. In a popular sense, the opera was a decided success; the choral melodies especially suiting the public taste. The libretto, although faulty in many respects, was dramatic, and afforded scope for fine acting and artistic emotion. "Nabucco," in short, floated on the sea of the Anglo-Italian stage, where, whilst one current was always rushing towards novelty, another tended to wreck all novelty whatever in the interests of so-called "classicism." Much had been done to place the opera with splendour on the stage, but though it pleased as a whole, no decided success attended the venture of the two new ladies. Sanchioli, wild, vehement, and somewhat coarse, attracted and excited by her "power, spirit, and fire," but she failed to charm. As a "declaiming, passionate vocalist," she created an effect; but the very qualities which had rendered her so popular with an Italian audience, acted somewhat repulsively upon English opera-goers. The lack of refinement in her style was not in their eyes redeemed by the merit of energy. The electric impulse that communicated itself to the Italians, fell comparatively powerless on the British temperament. Sanchioli, however, was in many respects the "right woman in the right place," in this melodramatic opera. The other lady, Mademoiselle Corbari, though destined in after times to please greatly as an altra-prima on the Anglo-Italian stage, and though she was considered from the first, charming, even "fascinating" in her simplicity and grace, was not yet acknowledged as a leading vocalist. The nervousness and inexperience of a novice, which she showed at this stage of her career, somewhat lessened the success due to a sweet voice and feeling style, though the prayer allotted to her character, Fenena, was encored nightly. Fornasari pleased those who remained of his old enthusiastic admirers, by his emphatic dramatic action and vigorous declamation, and thus far worked towards the success of Verdi's new opera. It is not unworthy of record that, in compliance with that repugnance which is prevalent in the English mind against any dramatic subject referring however remotely to biblical history, and which had already transformed "Mose" into "Pietro L'Eremita," the "Nabucco" of the Italian stage was condemned to assume on this occasion an alias under the title of "Nino Ee D'Assyria." That the opera thus lost much of its original character, especially in the scene where the captive Israelites became very uninteresting Babylonians, and was thereby shorn of one great element of success, present on the Continent, is undeniable.

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cite as

Benjamin Lumley, Reminiscences of the Opera (London, 1864), p. 144-6. accessed: 20 June, 2024

location of experience: Her Majesty's Theatre


Benjamin Lumley
Opera manager, Solicitor

Listening to

hide composers
written by Giuseppe Verdi
performed by Amalia Corbari, Giulia Sancholi, Luciano Fornasari

Experience Information

Date/Time 3 March, 1846
Medium live
Listening Environment in the company of others, indoors, in public

Originally submitted by sp327 on Tue, 04 Aug 2015 10:56:57 +0100
Approved on Sun, 24 Apr 2016 15:30:22 +0100