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W. M. Ward became stage manager. William Henderson on that date made his first appearance here in several years, acting Marteau in “The Carpenter of Rouen.” W. H. Chapman took a benefit Aug. 12, and Mollie Williams played Ninette in “The Savage and the Maiden;" Aug. 13 W. M. Ward acted Mazeppa; Charlotte Crampton appeared Aug. 20 as Shylock in the trial scene from the "Merchant of Venice." Aug. 22, "Ingomar," Annie Hathaway as Ingomar, and Fanny Herring as Parthenia; Aug. 24" Richard III." was given, with Miss Hathaway as Gloster, Fanny Herring as Richmond; Aug. 27, “Macbeth,” Hathaway in the title rôle, Rachel Denvil as Lady Macbeth. Miss C. Le Roy and " Yankee" Lefler appeared Aug. 29 in "The Hunter's Bride,” “The Wandering Boys," and "Married Blind." “Rosina Meadows was played Sept. 5.
In November many alterations were made in the house, and it was opened Nov. 14, with Lafe Nixon & Aymar's Circus, and was called the CHATHAM AMPHITHEATRE. Aymar & Sherwood were the managers. In the company were Tony Pastor (clown), William Pastor, James Melville, Durand, Painter, William, Walter, and Albert Aymar, and Charles Shay. “Buck Bison, or Baby Blanche” was presented Dec. 5, with Louise Wells (Mrs. Lafe Nixon) in the leading rôle. Previous to the drama equestrian performances were given. Mrs. Matt Peel's Campbell Minstrels opened Jan. 23, 1860, under the direction of John T. Huntley, who had married the widow of Matt Peel. Charley White was in the organization. On March 4 this house was known as the UNION THEATRE, under the lesseeship of Yankee Lefler. The opening bill consisted of "Lucrezia Borgia," " Lend Me Five Shillings,” and “The Merry Cobblers,” W. H. Meeker and Rachel Denvil being the principals.
March 11, Yankee Lefler appeared in “Ten Nights in a Barroom." The house was closed in a few nights to reopen March 8, 1860, as the National Concert Saloon, with pretty waiter girls. The prices of admission were: Boxes, 12 cents; pit, 6 cents. The next managers were J. Howard Rogers and Joseph C. Foster. They commenced March 6 with “The Willow Copse” and “The Gipsy Farmer, or Tars Ashore.” C. J. Foster acted Luke Fielding in the first named play, and Mrs. Van Deeren Rose Fielding. "The Star Spangled Banner” was sung by the company. The season was a brief one. The house was reopened for a summer season July 3 as the National Theatre, with Charles J. Waters as lessee. The patriotic drama “Show Your Colors, or the Stars and Stripes," was played with J. H. Allen in the leading rôle. “The StageStruck Chambermaid” was the afterpiece, in which Mrs. Frank Rea appeared. The Marsh Sisters and Jenny Walters danced between the pieces. It was again closed and reopened as a concert saloon Oct. 6 by George Beane. On Dec. 25 German dramatic performances were given by Mme. Schroder Dummler, with "Don Juan.” In 1861 it was opened Nov. 16 as the National Music Hall, by Fox & Curran, but although they spent considerable money in fitting it up, it failed to pay. George Lea assumed the management in December. He was at that time managing the Melodeon on Broadway and Hooley's Theatre in Brooklyn. He used to commence the “star" part of the performance at the Melodeon at 8.30, take the actors in carriages to the Chatham, and, by 9.45, he would start with them in carriages to Brooklyn. He kept a small stock company at each house. This he continued to do for about one month. Purdy was stage manager for Mr. Lea in Brooklyn, at ten dollars per week. The old Chatham Theatre was torn down in October, 1862. A portion of the building still stands, and is occupied by B. M. Cowperthwait & Co., furniture dealers.
PALMO'S OPERA HOUSE
was erected upon the site of Stoppani's Arcade Baths, Nos. 39 and 41 Chambers Street, by Sig. Ferdinand Palmo, who had accumulated a little fortune as proprietor of the Café des Mille Colonnes, in Broadway, between Hospital and Duane Streets. It was the ambition of his life to establish a theatre in which the music of his own beloved Italy might find a permanent home, and he had sufficient confidence in the taste and liberality of the public to believe that his investment would be remunerative. His was the fourth attempt to introduce Italian opera in this city, and the second to give it an individual local habitation. The venture proved disastrous, and poor Palmo sacrificed all that he possessed, and became eventually dependent upon the charity of others, after serving as a cook in a hotel and in several restaurants.
It was a small theatre compared to those of the present day, and would seat hardly eight hundred persons. The house was well constructed, ingeniously contrived for acoustic purposes; in fact, it was as convenient and comfortable as any theatre could be. The initial performance took place Feb. 3, 1844, and the following is a copy of the programme:
PALMO'S N. Y. OPERA HOUSE.
Performance to commence at half-past seven. The public are respectfully informed that this establishment will open for the season on
SATURDAY EVENING, FEB. 3, 1844.
After which, first time in New York, the grand opera, in three acts, by Bellini, of
Sig. Mayer Sir George :
Sig. Valtellini Henrietta of France Signora Albertazzi Sir Richard Sig. Majocchi Sir Bruno Noberton
Sig. Albertazzi Lord Arthur Talbot. Sig. Perozzi The whole under the direction of SIGNOR VALTELLINI.
The orchestra will comprise thirty-two Professors. Leader and Director, SIG. RAPETTI. Maestro and Director of the Chorus, D. J. ETIENNE.
The Drop Curtain by SIGNORS GUIDICINI and MONACHESSI. The architectural Scenery painted by SIG. M. BRAGALDI, assisted by SIG. MOLINI and others. The Landscape Scenery by MR. P. GRAIN.
Box office opened from 10 to 4 o'clock for obtaining tickets.
Arrangements have been made by the management with the Railroad Company for the accommodation of ladies and gentlemen living up town, so that a large car, well lighted and warmed, will start after the theatre closes, and police officers will be in attendance to prevent disorder. The car will run from the corner of Chambers and Centre Streets, as far as Forty-second Street.
“La Sonnambula” was given May 11, for the first time in this city in Italian, followed May 22 by“L'Elisir d'Amore,” for the first time in New York in Italian. The season closed June 14, but was resumed July 1 for Mme. Ceriti Damoreau, who sang in “L'Italiani in Algeri.” The next season began Nov. 18, and closed Jan. 25, 1845.
It was not with the great singers that Palmo found his final difficulty, for these cormorants gauged their digestion according to the receipts of the house; for, knowing their presence to be the attraction, without which the house must close, they simply extorted from the management every cent in his till, leaving the more obscure members of the company unprovided for. Poor Palmo had vainly imagined that the poor dependents of the house would, like him, wait until some signal dispensation of Providence should restore the fallen hopes of the operatic drama. He was disappointed, for he had never read the parable of the bellows-blower, as an appendage to the organ. The decisive night came with La Borghese in all the stateliness of her beauty and the irresistible attractiveness of her smile. A large audience was in attendance, and everything prophesied a favorable turn to Palmo's fortunes. The opera selected was one of Borghese's master rôles; the overture was played with a delicacy and accuracy which fairly astonished the house, for never did orchestra so far excel itself; then came the opening choruses, which were executed with a similar degree of excellence. Palmo and his admirers were delighted; the hitch in his day-dream was apparently shaken out, and a revived future dawned before him. Then Borghese, the magnificent, stalked with queen-like tread to the centre of the footlights, and opened her arched mouth to sing a solo which was the feature of the opera.
To her astonishment, no symphony, no delicate harmony accompanied her movements or heralded her approach. In perplexity, she gazed upon the leader of the orchestra, indignantly she stamped her foot to arouse him to a sense of duty; but that dignitary remained in his chair, his violin firmly tucked under his arm. Borghese raved in vituperative Italian; the audience hissed at the obdurate orchestrans, for all the musicians imitated their leader and discarded their usual implements of toil. Finally, Palmo came on the stage and excitedly demanded the cause of the musicians' strike. "No pay,” curtly answered a Teuton, quietly taking his cornet to pieces. * Pay you to-morrow!” shouted Palmo, in a state of frenzy. “To-night 's the time,” suggested the cornet player, as he snapped the lock of his instrument case. A bright idea struck Palmo, so, whispering to Borghese to amuse the audience with a bit of pantomime for a moment, he rushed around to the box office, there to draw from the receipts of the night sufficient to appease the rebellious orchestra. To his horror he found the entire treasury, bills, specie, and coppers, in the hands of a deputy sheriff. Poor Palmo fainted, while the magnificent Borghese, breathing vengeance against the musicians, attempted to execute a grand aria without their aid. The effort was a success; but amid the thunders of applause greeting this Amazonian defiance, the orchestra tranquilly disappeared with their instruments under their arms, leaving the queen-like Borghese and the remainder of her associates to raise music from some other quarter than from the deserted orchestra. This grand strike of the fiddlers terminated Palmo's career as an opera director. Palmo introduced among us some of the finest artists who have appeared upon the lyric stage Pico, Borghese, Castellan and others of celebrity, the rivalry of whose friends and admirers created a passing furore, which aided the operatic treasury for the moment.
After the Palmó collapse the theatre stood at the mercy of sheriff's officers, landlords, substitutes, and every species of legal officials charged with creditors' rights. It was rented for almost every kind of theatrical exhibition, and after the affairs of Palmo's estate became slightly out of chaos, it was occupied by various companies, some of them of considerable merit.
For a few nights commencing Aug. 17, 1844, the original Ethiopian Serenaders held forth, including Harrington, Stanwood, and Dick Pelham. This house was the cradle of negro minstrelsy. It was here that the white waistcoats and black trousers (not worn by the original minstrel band) flourished when it was known as Dumbleton's Opera House, and here Lynch, Kavanagh, Nelson Kneass
and others, performed in those burlesques that S. S. Sanford and the Buckleys made so popular. Nelson Kneass was born in Philadelphia. He was in the chorus at the Park Theatre, this city, for several years, and about 1845 he turned his attention to negro minstrelsy. It is a mistake to suppose that he was the author of “Ben Bolt.” That song was first sung at the Bowery Amphitheatre, this city, about 1850, by John Gossin, the clown. It has had more than one air. That by which it is best known came to it by accident. Kneass happened to be in Pittsburg, Pa., and was asked to set “Ben Bolt” to music. Kneass was a clever musician, but his fame as a composer rests solely upon his chance connection with “Ben Bolt.” He may have claimed it without any qualification, and thus have given rise to the idea that he was both composer and poet. Mr. Kneass died at Chillicothe, Ohio, Sept. 10, 1869. He had married a Park Theatre vocalist, who was drowned about 1857
In September, 1843, Thos. Dunn English wrote “Ben Bolt,” and it was published in Geo. P. Morris New York Mirror, Sept. 2. It became popular everywhere. It was sung in the streets of London, and replies to it and parodies of it abounded among the ballad singers. A domestic drama of which the song formed the basis was written and played at Burton's Chambers Street Theatre.
On Nov. 9, William Chippendale opened this house for a short season of ballet, and Mlle. Augusta made her first appearance in this city, since her return from Europe, in “La Giselle.” Nov. 23, Samuel Lover, the Irish author and humorist, appeared here and continued for a few nights in an entertainment of his own. Edward Lafayette Tilton made his first appearance on the stage at this house during the season of 1844. He played Beauseant in “The Lady of Lyons. Mr. Tilton died at Birmingham, Ala., 1887. An accident that happened to Mr. Tilton during his brief association with Wilkes Booth at Mary Provost's (originally Brougham's Lyceum) Theatre (1861) caused a great deal of talk at the time. He was doing Richmond to Wilkes Booth's Richard III., and in the fencing scene the infuriated tyrant got so excited that he forced his opponent over the footlights into the orchestra. Although Mr. Tilton's shoulder was broken by the fall, he continued the part after being lifted to the stage, and fenced on with his left hand.
William E. Dinneford leased this house and opened it April 7, 1845. It was at this theatre that George Vandenhoff and his daughter Charlotte attempted to revive the classic tragedy “ Antigone,” with a facsimile of a Greek theatre and stage and Mendelssohn's music. A new Grecian proscenium was painted, and a double stage erected. The tragedy, produced in Athens 450 years