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From The Daily News (London, England), Monday, October 3, 1881; Issue 11065.

The experiment of lighting Mr. D'Oyly Carte's beautiful new theatre in the Savoy, to be opened on Thursday next, with electric lights, will be looked forward to with special interest. It is to be remembered that the management propose to use the Swan incandescent electric lamps for illuminating purposes throughout the theatre, and even, this is the most noteworthy feature, for lighting the stage. The entirely new conditions which this will introduce into the painting of scenery will be readily perceived from the following interesting letter, addressed to the writer of this column by Mr. Emden, the leading scenic artist of the new house:

When gas first became the illuminating power in theatres, the art of scene-painting was practically revolutionised. Our predecessors soon discovered the advantages which even its yellow glare possessed over the wax or tallow dips, with which barely seventy years ago our theatres were lighted, and a new school of scenic art was called into being. I need not remind you of the names of the most eminent professors of that art in the past and present.

The experiments at the Savoy Theatre, with the scenery for which I have been interested, abundantly show that the electric light, if it do not work so wholesale a reform, is likely at first to create some difficulties for scenic artists; while it is even more likely to bring out details of scenic work for those who trouble about such things. The experiments at the Albert Hall, where the electric light was tried – at first naked, and afterwards with a screen; and at Covent-garden, where it is seen in the auditorium in conjunction with gas, on the stage enclosed in Japanese lanterns, and in the Floral Hall enclosed in ground glass – have done little to show the effect of the light on the tints of scenic work.

Although Mr. D'Oyly Carte has spent much time and money in perfecting his electric lamps, the scenic artist is still in the dark. That much greater attention to detail will be necessary in the bright white light of this illuminating power of the future is beyond question; and at present it seems that scenic exhibition will be submitted to a similar test to that presented by a picture gallery seen at the distance of a couple of hundred feet.

The electric light so nearly approaches the light of day that, theoretically, work painted on the old plan should under its influence resemble the daub presented by scenery in daylight. In the scenery I have painted for the Savoy Theatre – the first scenery painted for the electric light in this country – not only has more than usual attention to detail been observed, but the usual predominance of blue used to counteract the effect of gas has been considerably modified. Everybody is familiar with the effect of coloured fire upon the transformation scene of a Christmas pantomime; but by the aid of the more brilliant and beautiful electric light far finer and more artistic gradations of shade ought to be obtained. In this, I think, scenic artists have a fair right to claim the aid of men of science.

Although by sundry experiments in the studio we may roughly determine the various shades to be used in combination with the electric light, the details can be no secret to scientific men, and they will, I am sure, readily co-operate with us in discovering the exact amount of white in the electric light, and the precise shades the co-mingling of which will result in certain effects. To give us this information might simplify our labours and prevent us going in a wrong direction. That the electric light will open up fresh fields of ambition to those who look to their art beyond the mere work-producing and money-making sides of the question is highly probable.


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