Famous Impresario Succumbs to
Bright’s Disease in London.

Was the Father of Col. Henry Mapleson
His Part in Developing Opera in This Country.

LONDON, Nov. 14. —Col. J.H. Mapleson, the operatic impresario, died in London to-day from blood poisoning supervening on Bright’s disease. He had been seriously ill about a fortnight.
He was the father of Col. Henry Mapleson.
James Henry Mapleson, who was born on May 4, 1830, in London, was a few years ago a very important figure in the direction of Italian opera in this country and in England. Indeed, it was largely due to Col. Mapleson’s efforts that opera obtained a permanent support in this city after many ineffectual attempts to secure for it a firm establishment. He began life as a musician, being entered as a student in the Royal Academy of Music in London. He learned singing and violin playing, and, after some desultory appearances as a vocalist, played one of the violas in the orchestra. In the interim between two of his seasons in 1849 he took on a tour in the “provinces” a concert company, composed of the famous soprano, Henrietta Sontag; the tenor Calzolari, the baritone Belletti, who came to this country with Jenny Lind; the celebrated basso Lablache, and the pianist Thalberg. In 1850 he took out another concert company, of which the chief members were Roger, the eminent French tenor, and Mme. Viardot, who were at that time studying John of Leyden and Fides preparatory to the first performance of “Le Prophète.”
Subsequently Col. Mapleson served a brief term as musical critic of a paper called The Atlas. Then he went to Italy and studied three years under Mazzucato. Returning to London in 1854, he gave concerts and again appeared as a singer, but his throat became affected so that he had to undergo an operation, which destroyed his voice. He then determined to pursue the career of a manager or agent. In 1856 he established the first musical agency in London, and made the first adaptation of Balfe’s “Bohemian Girl” for the English stage. In 1858 he became an assistant to E.T. Smith, manager of the opera at the Haymarket Theatre, and remained with his till 1861, when Smith retired from the management and Mapleson took the Lyceum Theatre for himself.
He opened his season on June 8, 1861, with Tietjens, Alboni, Giuglini, and Delle Sedie in “Il Trovatore,” Arditi conducting. In the course of the season he produced Verdi’s “Ballo in Maschera,” then new. He lost £1000 in the season, and determined to continue management till he “got even” and then stop. In his memoirs, published in 1888, he said: “I have been endeavoring to get straight during the last thirty years, and still hope to do so.”
In 1862 he began his career as manager of Her Majesty’s Theatre, with Tietjens, Trebelli, Giuglini, the Marchisio sisters, Mlle. Bochardt, and others in the company. In 1863 he produced “Faust,” and in the Autumn took the principal members of his company on a concert tour, the new music of Gounod being the chief feature of the programmes. In 1864 he introduced under the title of “Falstaff” Nicolai’s “Merry Wives of Windsor,” with Tietjens, Giuglini, Bettini, Gassier, and Santley. In 1865 he introduced De Murska to London and produced “Fidelio.” His tenor that season was the great Mario, and in 1866 he secured the famous Mme. Grisi. In 1867 he brought Christine Nilsson out in London, where she was immensely successful.
The burning of Her Majesty’s in 1868 drove Mapleson to the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane, where he continued to give Italian opera with Tietjens, Nilsson, Kellogg, and other eminent artists. In 1869 he went into partnership with Frederick Gye, but the union lasted only two seasons, and in 1871 he returned to Drury Lane. Campanini and Marimon first appeared in London that season under his management. In 1873 he engaged Ristori, who appeared on the nights when opera was not given. In 1876 he produced “Lohengrin,” with Nilsson, Campanini, and Galassi, and in December the same year began building the National Opera House, on the Thames Embankment, which never came to anything, unless a police station is something, for that is what it eventually became.
On April 28, 1877, he reopened the rebuilt Her Majesty’s Theatre, and on Aug. 31, 1878, he embarked for New York with a company, including Gerster, Hauk, Trebelli, Valleria, Campanini, Frapoli, Galassi, Del Puente, and Arditi. He opened his season at the Academy of Music on Oct. 16 with Hauk in “La Traviata,” Gerster being sick. The latter made her début as Amina on Nov. 8, achieving a great success. The operas given in this season were “Lucia,” “La Sonnambula,” “Carmen,” “Faust,” “Trovatore,” “Il Flauto Magico,” “Puritani,” “Figaro,” “Rigoletto,” “Don Giovanni,” “Ruy Blas,” “Dinorah,” “Robert,” “Il Talismano,” “Les Huguenots,” and “Der Freischütz.”
The following season he brought to New York Mlle. Marie Marimon, who made her début as Amina on Dec. 3, with enormous success. Col. Mapleson carried on London seasons in these years, the dates in London being the early Summer and those in America being in the Fall. It must be borne in mind, too, that his company appeared in other cities than this—in Boston, Philadelphia, Chicago, and other large towns. I July, 1880, he produced in London Boïto’s “Mefistofele,” with Nilsson, Trebelli, Nannetti, and Campanini. The same work was repeated here in the Fall, with Valleria, Cary, Novara, and Campanin. In that season, also, Gerster sang Elsa in “Lohengrin,” and “Aïda” was finely performed. The company also appeared in an “opera festival” in Cincinnnati. Ravelli made his first appearance here that year. The season of 1881 the Colonel opened here with “Lohengrin,” the company containing most of the old favorites. His decline, however, began that season with the failure of the tenor Prevost, who could sing only high C, and of Mlle. Vachot, who had been kissed by Gounod, but did not sing Margherita to American taste. Mme. Patti returned to America and sang in concert that season, which further injured the Maplesonian fortunes.
Col. Mapleson temporarily buoyed his failing fortunes by engaging Patti for the following season, when she made an immense hit as Lucia. Later Mme. Scalchi joined the company, and with Patti created a furor in “Semiramide.” In 1883 the Metropolitan Opera House was opened, and Col. Mapleson found a strong opposition against him. He had to bid against Mr. Abbey for Mme. Patti’s services, and ran the salary up to $5,000 a night. Unfortunately, the other members of his company were not strong enough to combat the Abbey combination. He re-engaged Gerster, but Patti overshadowed her, and Galassi was his only important singer. Bertini, one of this chief tenors, made a lamentable failure. Col. Mapleson pulled himself out of trouble to some extent by a trip to San Francisco, where Patti was a great card. The next year his principal new singer was Emma Nevada, but the beginning of German opera at the Metropolitan was a heavy blow to him. His last season in America was that of 1885-6, when his principal artists were Minnie Hauk, Lillian Nordica, Alma Fohström, Mme. Lablache, Ravelli, Giuglini, De Anna, Del Puente, Cherubini, and Vaschetti. He produced Massenet’s “Manon,” but the season was a disastrous failure, and he had some difficulty in getting out of town. With the remains of the company he gave concerts in England, and in 18888 had a season of opera at the Covent Garden. Mme. Lehmann made her London début under him. Since then his labors have been of a comparatively unimportant sort in the English “provinces.”
No operatic artist has been more closely identified in the public mind with the Mapleson régime than the late Signor Italo Campanini. “It is a singular coincidence,” said Signor Campanini, “that I should have made my début before the British public, in the City of London, on the anniversary of the birthday of Col. Mapleson, May 4, 1872. The opera was ‘Lucretia Borgia.’ Personally I always found Col. Mapleson to be what you call a ‘fine fellow.’ Inn all our long connection together professionally we never had a word of disagreement.
“What an opportunity he had! When I first came to New York, in 1878, and made my début in ‘Faust,’ he had the whole community at his feet. There was nothing he might ask for that he could not have. What was the reason of his loss of prestige and, consequently, of popular support? That is a question which delicacy forbids me to speak about. There is a great deal to be said on that subject. Col. Mapleson was a born diplomat. No one knew better than he how to manage the artists, and when a crisis was at hand he would contrive to bring about the result he aimed at and to induce the artist to sing. The amount of work which he got out of me was something incredible, and I would not go through the same experience again under any circumstances.
“He was a complete master of his business, and when he wanted a favor from an artist he knew how to go to work to get it. The American public owes much to Col. Mapleson in the way of making them acquainted with new operas. My recollections o f his are of the most kindly description.” —New York Times, Nov. 15, 1901, p. 9

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