December 15, 1917
Page 9
Memories of Concerts Given and Tours Planned in New York Half a Century Ago

Programs Made up Mainly of Italian Music Were Then in Vogue—Concert and Operatic T ours That Came to Unhappy Endings—Mme. Gazzaniga’s “Grand Operatic Concert Company,” Which Boasted a Sixteen-Year-Old Conductor—Concerts at Watering Places Poorly Attended Through Lack of Advertising

[Eduardo Marzo arrived in New York on April 14, 1867, when he was about fifteen years of age. As a pianist, accompanist, conductor, teacher, organist, lecturer and composer, Mr. Marzo has led an eventful and successful life, which has received due recognition in this country and in Europe. He was made a Knight of the Crown of Italy in 1884, honorary member of the Academy of St. Cecilia, Rome, in 1893, and Knight of St. Sylvester by His Holiness Pope Benedict XV in 1915. Eduardo Marzo is one of the founders of the Guild of Organists, governor of the Musicians’ Club, member of the “Bohemians” and of St. Wilfrid Club. Although born in Italy, he is a thorough American and a citizen of the United States since he was twenty-one years of age. He has done all his writing in this country and is considered an American composer·. All his works have been collected by the New York Public Library and bound in twenty volumes. —Editor, MUSICAl. AMERICA.]
I HAD already been in New York two months playing the organ in a small church, when a friend of mine, in the summer of 1867, gave me a card of introduction to Signor Albano, an Italian harpist, who had just arrived from South America and was organizing some concerts to be given at the summer hotels at Staten Island. Signor Albano, who, by the way, was a countryman of mine (we both hailed from Naples), greeted me cordially and said: “You are just the man” —he should have said “boy,” as I was only fifteen years old at the time—“that I need. I want an accompanist for myself and for the singers who are going to appear at the concerts which I am organizing.” Of course, I was very glad to make my first appearance, as it gave me also the chance to appear as a pianist.
At that time the programs of concerts were not generally arranged for the sake of art, or of some special artist. The aim was simply to give variety both as to the artists and the character of the music, which was, however almost all Italian, at least for the singers. A well conducted concert- had to include a contralto, if the star was a soprano, or vice versa, and possibly a tenor, a baritone and one or two instrumentalists. Another invariable peculiarity of the programs was the concluding number, mostly always a vocal trio or quartet.
Favorite Numbers
The favorite numbers were the trios from “Trovatore,” “Luisa Miller,” “I Lombardi” and the quartets from “Martha” and the Prayer from “Moïse,” by Rossini. (At that time they had not yet exploited the inevitable quartet from “Rigoletto.”) The Albano concerts were given in Staten Island at Peteler’s Hotel, and Huguenot Hall, and both Mme. Parepa-Rosa and Mme. Gazzaniga appeared in them.
One of the most noted and successful singing teachers of the time was Signor Albites, who had a great knack of singing French comic songs. There was no private concert at which he did not contribute some of his comic repertoire. That was the time also when Brignoli, the silver-throated tenor, was at the zenith of his career in this country and, if I am not mistaken, it was with Pasquale Brignoli that Albites had come a few years previously.
In October of that year Mme. Gazzaniga was arranging a concert tour to travel through New York State and Canada, and I was engaged as pianist and accompanist. Other members of the company were Signor Maccaferri, the eminent tenor, as they called him; Signor Fortuna, the favorite baritone; Herr Balck, the renowned violinist.
Tour Ends Disastrously
We visited several cities, always using the same program and meeting with indifferent success; in fact, the tour ended disastrously when we arrived at Buffalo. The plan was for the company to go to Hamilton the next day. Signor Maccaferri and myself decided to leave early and stop at Niagara Falls and then meet the rest of the company at the station so as to proceed together to Hamilton. But at the station we found a message awaiting us—we were to go back to Buffalo, because the others had suddenly departed for New York, giving up the tour. We deemed it wise not to venture to Hamilton, where we might have met perhaps with a warm reception from the creditors of the company, although we were not in any way responsible for the financing of the company. We returned to Buffalo, where we expected to find further instructions and funds to return to New York. But there were neither instructions nor funds! Both Signor Maccaferri and myself were stranded, with the pleasant prospect of “footing” it to New York. After pawning Maccaferri’s watch, we managed to pay the board bill at the hotel for twenty-four hours. I then found somebody in Buffalo to whom I appealed and succeeded in getting enough to pay our fares back to New York City. It goes without saying that we never got our salaries.
Nothing daunted, Mme. Gazzaniga, in conjunction with the baritone, Giorgio Ronconi, organized a “Grand Operatic Concert Company,” and I was engaged as accompanist and conductor, at sixteen years of age! Ronconi had been one of the greatest singers of his time and was still in fairly good condition and able to sing several of his great roles.
During that winter many concerts were given at Steinway Hall and I played and accompanied at several of them. Signor Severini, a Norwegian tenor, made his first appearance in New York, at which Signor Fortuna, the baritone, sang. The accompanist was to be Señor Mora, a noted Cuban organist, and he disappointed at the last minute, so that I was asked to play in his place. In fact, I was in the hall as a spectator, when Signor Fortuna, for whom I had played, came out in the audience and persuaded me to take Señor Mora’s place.
Signor Severini settled in New York and was for a long time one of the most noted singing teachers, and since that night was always one of my best friends.
One of the most important concerts (of the kind) was given at Steinway Hall on Feb. 21, 1868. From the program I see that Antonia Henne, the contralto; J. R. Thomas and George Simpson, the ballad singers, and Albano, the harpist, took part. At this concert G. W. Morgan, the organist, played also.
The Gazzaniga Company
And now to go back to the operatic concert company (Gazzaniga & Lotti Company), which left New York in the year of 1868 and traveled through New York State to Erie, Pa., and finally broke up at Kalamazoo, Mich. The company was composed of the following artists: Mme. Marietta Gazzaniga, the great dramatic prima donna; Signorina Ronconi, the charming soprano; Signora Catoni, contralto; Signor Ardavani, the popular baritone, and Signor Lotti, the favorite tenor. We had also a bass, Bacelli, and two chorus singers from the opera, namely, Barberis, tenor, and Barbaelata, soprano, who sang the minor rôles.” We actually had a business manager for this troupe (as they called it at that time), who was no less a person than Signor Chizzola. The latter was just commencing his career as a manager.
Opera Sans Orchestra
Besides concerts we gave operas, sometimes with an orchestra which traveled with us, composed of but a single string quartet. In some of the large cities we enlarged it with some of the local talent. As we went further away from New York we dispensed with the orchestra altogether, and the operas were given to the accompaniment of a piano, which I played. It was pretty hard work at times, especially when we gave “Traviata” or “Lucrezia Borgia.” The operas we produced on that tour were, besides these two, “Don Pasquale,” “Crispino e la Comare” and “Barber of Seville.”
A Grievous Coincidence
As it was for the purpose of giving Signor Lotti an opportunity to sing for his people in Kalamazoo, it seemed fitting that we should have finished the tour and come to grief in that city. Business, which had been rather poor from the start, became. so bad there that the printers’ and other bills could not be paid by the management, with the result that the sheriff seized upon the baggage of the company, and it took all of Signor Lotti’s influence and cash to free us and give us the means to return “gloriously” to New York.
The following summer I had occasion to accompany at several concerts, given at such watering places as Saratoga, Long Branch, Stamford and Staten Island. At these concerts the singers · were those of the company just mentioned, with the addition of the tenors, Massimiliani and Tamaro; the baritone, Ardavani; the pianist, Harry Sanderson, and the ‘cellist, Alard. The price of admission at all these concerts and operatic performances was never any higher than a dollar, including reserved seat. The press was emphatic in praising our work.
The fact remains that the performances were poorly attended, and not so much because of weather and want of interest on the part of the public, but because they were badly advertised! It takes more than a few handbills left at the local music store and scattered around the town to draw an audience.


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