A Night at Niblo’s Garden resurrects the past through performance

Groups of people took out their time capsules on Saturday, July 12 at Green-Wood Cemetery for a re-creation of 19th century impresario William Niblo’s renowned pleasure garden, featuring a night of music, drama and other forms of entertainment in tribute to the late showman, who is buried there. “This was an amazing night and a great success not only for Green-Wood Cemetery, but also for myself, “said Benjamin Feldman, Niblo’s biographer.Niblo’s theater, which was located across the river in Manhattan, was “the Radio City Music Hall of its day,” featuring vaudeville, acrobats and musical performances. However, his flair for entertainment didn’t end there. Niblo regularly invited guests to enjoy picnics at the site of his mausoleum in Green-Wood, where his wife was interred, the inspiration for the event.The night featured famed knife throwing by the Great Throwdini, fire juggling, acrobats and a rendition of selections from Verdi’s “Rigoletto” by tenor Jacob Feldman and coloratura soprano Rebecca Gordon.The event also featured a selection from America’s first musical (“The Black Crook”) entitled You Naughty, Naughty Men, performed by Marge Raymond. The show opened in the theatre in 1867, and was staged continuously in the U.S. for the next 50 years.Getting into the spirit of the evening, people – some dressed in costumes of the era — brought picnic baskets, and Feldman himself recreated Niblo on stage so that attendees could get a glimpse of the man who shaped modern entertainment in the city.“It’s been amazing to recreate the ambiance of outdoor spectacle, opera and how gentile New Yorkers enjoyed entertainment here 150 years ago,” said Feldman.This was the second time that Green-Wood recreated Niblo’s theatre, and Feldman hopes it won’t be the last.“All my colleagues at the cemetery enjoyed the show as did the crowds,” he noted, “so hopefully I can be here again doing this next year.”

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