|Carte > Savoy Theatre > Opening Night from The Era
From The Era (London, England), Saturday, October 15, 1881
The opening of the Savoy Theatre on Monday night will be a memorable event in theatrical annals, owing to the fact that it was the first time the electric light was employed for stage illumination. There were many difficulties to overcome, even up to the last, and Mr. R. D'Oyly Carte issued a notice on Saturday that it was impossible to complete all the complicated arrangements necessary for the perfect lighting of the auditorium and stage with the electric light, but there is no doubt that in a few days all difficulties will be overcome, and the first steps will be taken in a method of lighting which will probably become universal ere long, owing to its many advantages.
The pleasure of sitting in a crowded Theatre without being affected by the heat of the gas must inevitably prove a boon to the playgoer of the future, and must tend to increase audiences, for the dense atmosphere frequently unavoidable at the Theatre was always an objection to many who would gladly have attended dramatic and musical performances. Besides, in hot weather gas is most objectionable. Hence we look forward with keen interest to the ultimate success of Mr. Carte's experiment.
We have so fully described the form, the arrangements of the auditorium, and the appliances of the stage, already, that we may dismiss this subject with the remark that the admiration expressed by those who privately viewed the new Theatre was most fully endorsed when it was opened to the public and filled in every part with an enthusiastic audience on Monday.
Another feature of an artistic kind has, perhaps, not received the attention it deserved, and we may fairly bestow a few remarks upon it. This is the alteration required in the method of painting the scenery. It is not generally known that scene painters have been compelled, especially in landscape effects, to adopt very different tones of colour from those employed in scenes intended for daylight exhibition. Artists who paint for the stage are compelled to make large allowances for the effect of the gaslight upon their scenes. Although in some instances gas may have been an advantage, the benefit of the electric lighting of the stage will be that the landscape-painter who wishes to depict a fairy glen, a sea-shore, a broken forest or sky effect, will have, in most cases, to paint with a closer approach to nature, and also will be able to employ the actual colour seen in daylight by the lover of nature. Thus we may anticipate even in the beautiful art of scene-painting more truthful representations of natural effects than were possible before, and when the electric illumination is fully employed the forest glade in the new opera Patience will reveal qualities not usually found in such scenes. Nothing could be more exquisite than the scene referred to viewed as it was on Monday evening; but it will be still more charming and natural when shown, as the artist intends, under the magic illumination of electricity. The extreme delicacy of the foliage and the subdued mellow tints of nature in the trunks of the trees, combined with the natural and graceful forms, give the spectator an idea of reality as rare as it is welcome.
Regarding the performance, less is necessary to be said than would be the case with a novelty. But who wants novelty when a work can be transferred in the full tide of its popularity from the Opera Comique to the Savoy? To give éclat to the occasion Mr. Sullivan was there to conduct the work himself, and he was received with the greatest enthusiasm. The opera went without a hitch of any kind, and the performers naturally exerted themselves to the utmost to give the work its due effect. There is an advantage in the new stage, which is larger than that of the Opera Comique, and the pretty groups were extended and elaborated to a greater extent than before. With regard to the acting and singing we have but to repeat what we have previously said. Mr. Grossmith, as Bunthorne, is as quaint, picturesque, and droll as ever in his impersonation of the fleshy poet. He was greatly applauded, and his duet with Miss Alice Barnett was twice encored. Mr. Rutland Barrington, as the idyllic poet, although suffering from a cold, exerted himself with the best effect, and his amusing contrasts of style supplied ample mirth for the audience. Mr. Walter Browne now takes the place of Mr. R. Temple, who remains at the Opera Comique. Mr. Browne sings neatly and acts with spirit as the Colonel of Dragoons, and Mr. Durward Lely is an efficient representative of the Duke, who is so puzzled how to make up his mind. Mr. Frank Thornton made his little part effective and amusing.
As Lady Jane, Miss Alice Barnett pleased as much as ever, her quaint acting of the character and her imposing presence, combined with a good voice and an excellent conception of the possibilities of the part, afforded infinite amusement. Her song with the violoncello accompaniment was, as usual, received with the greatest hilarity and applause. Miss Leonora Braham as Patience, the milkmaid, was all the fancy of Bunthorne painted her and something beyond. She looked the rustic beauty perfectly, and sang with artistic skill. Miss Bond, Miss Gwynne, and Miss Fortescue, as the æsthetic ladies, were all excellent; and the chorus of "twenty love-lorn maidens" was increased, so that, although they sang of the "score" and by the score, their numbers exceeded the promise of the libretto.
Sir Michael Costa's clever arrangement of the National Anthem was given, and at the close of the performance Messrs. Gilbert and Sullivan, and then Mr. Phipps and Mr. Carte, were called before the curtain. We may remark, in conclusion, than the opera was given on Monday for the 170th time.
Page modified 26 October, 2011 Copyright © 2011 The Gilbert and Sullivan Archive All Rights Reserved.