New Orleans was the first Southern city to establish an opera company, and for more than half a century the city was recognized as one of the leading music centers of the country. As early as 1810 light operas, romances, musical comedy, and drama were presented at the Spectacle, St. Philip, and Orleans Theaters, all of which were located in the French Quarter. It was not until 1837, however, that serious attention was given to opera. In that year Mile. Julia Calve made her debut at the Orleans Theater, scoring a great success. Three years later Charles Boudousquie, who afterwards became the husband of Mile. Calve, brought from France the first important company of singers to visit New Orleans. Their first appearance in the city was made at the Orleans Theater, in Le Chalet.
The French Opera Company, which came into existence near the middle of the nineteenth century, had a long and successful career, during which many of the old classics were presented. The French Opera was one of the South s greatest contributions to music. The building was erected in 1859 in the Vieux Carre, five blocks from Canal Street, on the uptown lake corner of Bourbon and Toulouse Streets. The house was opened in December with the presentation of Guillaume Tell, conducted by Professor Eugene Prevost, a New Orleans musician.
The opera became the focus of social life in New Orleans a scene of costly jewels, elaborate costumes, lovely women, gallant gentlemen, and magnificent music. European artists coming to New Orleans for engage ments lived in the city throughout the opera season. People of all walks in life attended the opera, even those who wished solitude. For these persons the loges grilles, or boxes enclosed with lattice work, were intended, being occupied chiefly by those in mourning and femmes enceintes.
Among the outstanding stars who appeared at the French Opera were Adelina Patti, Mme. Urban, Mile. Hitchcock, and Julia Calve. Among works given here for the first time in America were Gounod s La Reine de Saba and Le Tribut de Zamora, Bizet s L Arlesienne, Massenet s Herodiade, Werther, and Don Quichotte, Saint-Saen s Samson and Delilah, and Lalo s Le Roi d Ys. The opera house was destroyed by fire in November 1919 and has not been rebuilt.
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