Prague Concert Life, 1850-1881

Event title:

Benefit musical-declamatory Academy in aid of the Institute for the Care and Employment of the Adult Blind [Prague Seminary Institute for the Blind]

Venue: Žofín Island (Žofín Hall)

Event type: Art music culture

Date: 09/04/1851 5pm

Season: Lent

Beneficiary: Seminary Institute for the Blind

Programme comprising:

General participants:
  • GROßER, Henriette: soloist, v
ROSSINI, Gioachino Antonio : Overture to opera Guillaume Tell, orch
TRNKA, Anton : song Vesnické děvče (Village girls), v, pf
     • Vávrová, Bohumíra : v
CHOPIN, Fryderyck Franciszek : unspecified Nocturne, pf
     • Fischer, Karl : pf
MOZART, Wolfgang Amadeus : aria of Vitellia unspecified, from opera La Clemenza di Tito, v, orch, K621
     • Großer, Henriette : v
SPONHOLZ, ? : Romanza, v, vc, pf
     • Hofrichter, Jaroslav : v Citerak, A. : pf Brichta, ? : vc
CHOPIN, Fryderyck Franciszek : unspecified Scherzo, pf
     • Fischer, Karl : pf
TOMÁŠEK, Václav Jan Křtitel : song Mein Hochland, v, pf, op.92
     • Brzorad, Ferdinand Ludwig : v
DONIZETTI, Gaetano : aria unspecified, from opera Maria di Rohan, v, orch
     • Großer, Henriette : v
REIßIGER, Karl : Overture to opera Die Felsenmühle zu Etalières, orch, op.71


Advance details of this event were published by Bohemia 25/3/1851 noting that the academy would take place on 29th March at 5pm, and stating the benefit cause. Lumír 20/3/1851 also reported the date of this event to be 29th March. On 27th March Bohemia then published a report that the event had had to be postponed for several days, and that participating would be Miss Henriette Großer who had recently enjoyed great success at the Theatre in Pest. The newspaper then announced on 6/4/1851 that the ‘musical-declamatory academy [musikalisch-deklamatorische Akademie]’ would then take place on 8th April at 5pm in the Žofín Hall and would be for the same benefit cause. Miss Großer, again reported as having appeared with brilliant success in a cycle of guest performances in Pest,  would participate and perform two great arias. No other details of the event were given by this source.

This event eventually took place on Wednesday 9th April. This date, the venue, programme and participating soloists were listed in the Lokalzeitung of Bohemia 8/4/1851. The Tagesanzeiger text of this issue also reported the date, time, venue and beneficiary.

A brief report appeared in the Lokalzeitung of Bohemia 10/4/1851 stating that yesterday afternoon Miss Großer had sung in the concert for the benefit of the Institute for the Blind and that the applause she gained was unceasing. A detailed review, signed ‘V.’, of the event was published by Bohemia 11/4/1851. The text commented in detail upon recent conflict and controversy between the singer and the director of the Estates Theatre Hoffmann, who the correspondent felt had treated the soprano unfairly by withdrawing her from the stage. This could not be justified from any apparent lack of quality of her voice; reports of its alleged decline were said to be groundless. However, the board of directors of the theatre had attacked her for a supposed lack of artistic capability even after she had left her position, and Hoffmann had stated that ‘such an invalid singer as she is would not be good for his theatre [eine so invalide Sängerin, wie sie, tauge ein- für allemal nicht für sein Theater]’. The meaning of the word ‘invalide’ probably refers to perceived weaknesses as a performer. In a respose heavy with irony, the Bohemia critic considered that their judgement was perhaps hasty, and advised the management to have looked first to the relative public reception given to the three artistes replacing her before coming to a decision to dispense with Miss Großer. The more significant judgement and the stated preference of the Prague audience was thought by the reviewer to have been well demonstrated on the occasion of this benefit concert. The Žofín Hall was so full (an audience of more than 2000 was quoted), that although the usually locked third gallery had been opened, some people still had to stand in the entrance hall. The success gained by the singer had, according to the critic, not been equalled by any other artist.

The works given by Miss Gro
ßer were listed by the review text. All met with enthusiastic applause, and the Czech song had to be repeated. Although the accompaniment of the orchestra in the two arias was not good, the experience of the soloist ensured the performances were sound. Of her qualities as a singer the critic noted with sarcasm that she was not equipped with the attributes demanded by the Theatre management of being able to meet the demands of all stylistic schools, and in not possessing the lightness of a hurdy-gurdy to reproduce all manner of empty passage-work. Her voice was characterized by a ‘well-schooled tone quailty, a deeply effective performance (although not always enrapturing), and artisty’. Such ‘incidental’ qualities the theatre directorship chose to ignore. After wishing Miss Großer well for her future the reviewer asked the pardon of the other soloists participating in the concert for his mentioning them only in passing. The two overtures were performed bravely and with fire by the orchestra conducted by Kapellmeister Swoboda.

The Lokalzeitung section of Bohemia 6/5/1851 published news that the concert arranged by Klar for the benefit of the Institute for the Adult Blind in which Miss Großer [Großerová] participated had gained a profit for that cause of 782fl 38kr.

The programme details are reproduced from the Tagesanzeiger text of Bohemia 8/4/1851, with additional information incorporated from the Bohemia review.

Summary of sources:

Lumír (20/03/1851)
Bohemia (25/03/1851)
Bohemia (27/03/1851)
Bohemia, ein Unterhaltungsblatt (06/04/1851)
Bohemia, ein Unterhaltungsblatt (08/04/1851)
Bohemia, ein Unterhaltungsblatt (08/04/1851)
Bohemia, ein Unterhaltungsblatt (10/04/1851)
Bohemia (11/04/1851)
Bohemia (06/05/1851)