Astor Opera House

The Astor Opera House, also known as the Astor Place Opera House and later the Astor Place Theatre,[1] was an opera house in Manhattan, New York City, located on Lafayette Street between Astor Place and East 8th Street. Designed by Isaiah Rogers, the theater was conceived by impresario Edward Fry, the brother of composer William Henry Fry, who managed the opera house during its entire history.[2][3]

Astor Opera House crop
The Astor Opera House in 1850
Clinton Hall Mercantile Library Bldg 13 Astor Place
This 11-story building, now condominiums, replaced the opera house building in 1890

Opera House

Fry engaged the Sanquerico and Patti Opera Company under the management of John Sefton to perform the first season of opera at the house. The opera house opened on November 22, 1847 with a performance of Giuseppe Verdi's Ernani with Adelino Vietti in the title role.[4] Sefton and his company were not re-engaged by Fry, and the opera management of the house went to Cesare Lietti for the second season. During his tenure the opera house presented the United States premiere of Verdi's Nabucco on April 4, 1848.[5]

Lietti was also replaced after one season, and the Astor's third and longest lasting opera manager, Max Maretzek, was hired for the third season which commenced in November 1848.[6] The following year Maretzek founded his own opera company, the Max Maretzek Italian Opera Company, with whom he continued to stage operas at the Astor Opera House through 1852.[7][8] Under Maretzek the opera house saw the New York premiere of Donizetti's Anna Bolena on January 7, 1850 with soprano Apollonia Bertucca (later Maretzek's wife) as the title heroine.[9]

The theatre was built with the intention of attracting only the "best" patrons, the "uppertens" of New York society, who were increasingly turning out to see European singers who appeared at local venues such as Niblo's Garden. It was expected that an opera house would be:

a substitute for a general drawing room – a refined attraction which the ill-mannered would not be likely to frequent, and around which the higher classes might gather, for the easier interchange of courtesies, and for that closer view which aides the candidacy of acquaintance.[10]

In pursuit of this agenda, the theatre was created with the comfort of the upper classes in mind: benches, the normal seating in theatres at the time, were replaced by upholstered seats, available only by subscription, as were the two tiers of boxes. On the other hand, 500 general admission patrons were relegated to the benches of a "cockloft" reachable only by a narrow stairway, and otherwise isolated from the gentry below,[3] and the theatre enforced a dress code which required "freshly shaven faces, evening dress, and kid gloves."[11]

Limiting the attendance of the lower classes was partly intended to avoid the problems of rowdyism which plagued other theaters in the entertainment district at the time, especially in the theatres on the Bowery. Nevertheless, it was the deadly Astor Place riot in 1849 which caused the theatre to close permanently – provoked by competing performances of Macbeth by English actor William Charles Macready at the Opera House (which was operating under the name "Astor Place Theatre", not being able to sustain itself on a full season of opera) and American Edwin Forrest at the nearby Broadway Theatre.

Clinton Hall

After the riot, the theater was unable to overcome the reputation of being the "Massacre Opera House" at "DisAster Place."[12] By May 1853, the interior had been dismantled and the furnishings sold off, with the shell of the building sold for $140,000[13] to the New York Mercantile Library, which renamed the building "Clinton Hall".[14]

In 1890, in need of additional space, the Association tore down the opera house building and replaced it with an 11-story building, also called Clinton Hall, which still stands on the site.[15]



  1. ^ Not the same as the current Astor Place Theatre
  2. ^ Newman, Nancy (2010). Good Music for a Free People: The Germania Musical Society in Nineteenth-century America. University Rochester Press. p. 40.
  3. ^ a b Burrows & Wallace, p.724
  4. ^ Ireland, p.515
  5. ^ Martin, George Whitney (2011). Verdi in America: Oberto Through Rigoletto. University Rochester Press. p. 17.
  6. ^ Ireland, pp.515-543
  7. ^ Schonberg, Harold C. (November 23, 1969). "Even the Prima Donna Blushed'" (PDF). The New York Times. p. D19.
  8. ^ Ogasapian, John & Orr, N. Lee (2007). Music of the Gilded Age. Greenwood Publishing Group. p. 35.
  9. ^ Lawrence, Vera Brodsky (1995). Strong on Music: The New York Music Scene in the Days of George Templeton. University of Chicago Press. p. 3.
  10. ^ Nathaniel Parker Willis, quoted in Burrows & Wallace, p.724
  11. ^ Burrows & Wallace, p.760
  12. ^ Burrows & Wallace, p.765
  13. ^ "The Mercantile Library" New York Times (June 1, 1854)
  14. ^ "Exclusiveness" New York Times (May 27, 1853)
  15. ^ White, Norval & Willensky, p.162


Further reading

External links

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Alexander Saeltzer

Alexander Saeltzer (31 July 1814 Eisenach, Saxe-Weimar-Eisenach, Germany — 23 September 1883 New York City) was a German-American architect active in New York City in the 1850s and 1860s. His work includes the Anshe Chesed Synagogue (now the Angel Orensanz Center), Academy of Music (New York City), Theatre Francais (New York), the Duncan, Sherman & Company building and the South Wing of the Romanesque revival structure at 425 Lafayette Street built between 1853 and 1881 as the Astor Library (which later merged with the Tilden and Lenox collections to become the New York Public Library).His father, Wilhelm Sältzer (1779–1857), was a brickyard-owner, an architect, a Grand Duke council of Saxe-Weimar-Eisenach, who also worked as the construction manager in the reconstruction of the Wartburg. Alexander Saeltzer was born in Eisenach, Germany. He studied at Berlin Bauakademie and was a pupil of Karl Friedrich Schinkel. He moved to the U.S. from Berlin.

American Geographical Society

The American Geographical Society (AGS) is an organization of professional geographers, founded in 1851 in New York City. Most fellows of the society are Americans, but among them have always been a significant number of fellows from around the world. The Society encourages activities that expands geographical knowledge, and the interpretation of that knowledge so that it can be useful to geographers and other disciplines, especially in a policymaking environment. It is the oldest nationwide geographical organization in the United States. Over the century and a half of its existence, the AGS has been especially interested in three regions: the Arctic, the Antarctic, and Latin America. A signature characteristic of the AGS-sponsored exploration was the requirement that its expeditions produce tangible scientific results.

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Astor Place is a one-block street in NoHo/East Village, in the lower part of the New York City borough of Manhattan. It runs from Broadway in the west, just below East 8th Street; to Lafayette Street, ending at Alamo plaza. "Astor Place" is also sometimes used for the neighborhood around the street. It encompasses two plazas at the intersection with Cooper Square, Lafayette Street, Fourth Avenue, and Eighth Street – Alamo Plaza and Astor Place Station Plaza. It was named for John Jacob Astor (at one time the richest person in the United States), soon after his death in 1848. A $21 million reconstruction to implement a redesign of Astor Place began in 2013.

Astor Place (IRT Lexington Avenue Line)

Astor Place, also called Astor Place – Cooper Union on signs, is a local station on the IRT Lexington Avenue Line of the New York City Subway. Completed in 1904, it is one of the original twenty-eight stations in the system. Located at the intersection of Lafayette Street, Eighth Street, Fourth Avenue, Cooper Square, and Astor Place between the East Village and NoHo, it is served by the 6 train at all times, the <6> train during weekday in peak direction and by the 4 train during late nights. The station is on the List of Registered Historic Places in New York.

Astor Place Riot

The Astor Place Riot occurred on May 10, 1849, at the now-demolished Astor Opera House in Manhattan and left between 22 and 31 rioters dead, and more than 120 people injured. It was the deadliest to that date of a number of civic disturbances in Manhattan, which generally pitted immigrants and nativists against each other, or together against the wealthy who controlled the city's police and the state militia.

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Clinton Hall (Ithaca, New York), a historic commercial building in Ithaca, New York.

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Eliza Biscaccianti

Eliza Biscaccianti (1824 in Boston – July 1896 in Paris) was an American operatic soprano from Boston, Massachusetts. Born Eliza Ostinelli, she was the daughter of pianist Sophia Hewitt Ostinelli, the only woman to have ever been employed as an organist and accompanist by Boston's Handel and Haydn Society and the second musician ever to perform the work of Beethoven in Boston, and Louis Ostinelli, a native of Italy who became a second violinist with, and later a conductor of, the Handel and Haydn Society. Her uncle was composer John Hill Hewitt and her grandfather was conductor, composer and music publisher James Hewitt.She was nicknamed "The American Thrush."

Germania Musical Society

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In the fall of 1854 the Germania Musical Society came to an end at the height of its fame. ... Many of the players were determined to establish permanent homes and avoid the discomforts of touring. The Society had given approximately seven hundred concerts in the United States and one hundred matinees and soires. ... The total sum of public performances exceeded nine hundred, with more than one million listeners.

Band members, who had become U.S. citizens, settled in Baltimore, Boston, New York, Philadelphia, Syracuse and Chicago.

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Max Maretzek

Max Maretzek (June 28, 1821 – May 14, 1897) was a Moravian-born composer, conductor, and impresario active in the United States and Latin America.

Max Maretzek Italian Opera Company

The Max Maretzek Italian Opera Company (sometimes referred to as the Italian Opera Company, the Italian Grand Opera Company, or Academy of Music Opera Company) was a touring American opera company that performed throughout the United States from 1849-1878. The first major opera company in Manhattan and one of the first important companies in the United States, it had a long association with the Academy of Music in New York City where it presented an annual season of opera from 1854 until the company's demise in 1878 There the company performed the United States premieres of Rigoletto, Il trovatore, and La traviata among other works.

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William Charles Macready (3 March 1793 – 27 April 1873) was an English actor.

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