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NEW SAVOY OPERA.
INTERVIEW WITH SIR W.S. GILBERT.
SOME OF THE SONGS.
BAD MEN AND GOOOD FAIRIES.
It was at the moment when the chorus of fairies were rehearsing the joyous song concerning the manner in which mere mortals bestow their kisses that a representative of THE OBSERVER found W.S. Gilbert willing to foreshadow some of the quaint and beautifull things that await playgoers in the new opera which he has written, with Mr. Edward German, and which is to be produced at the Savoy Theatre next Wednesday evening.
"Fallen Fairies," so far as the book is concerned, is a new version of "The Wicked World," which was produced nearly thirty-seven years ago at the Haymarket, with Mr. and Mrs. Kendal, Mr. J.B. Buckstone, and Miss Amy Roselle in the cast. Now, however, the play opens with the entrance of fairies in procession from various parts of the stage.
"The dresses," Sir William said, "are extraordinarily beautiful, and contain a very new effect of apparent wings. When the fairies raise their arms the drapery falls from their waists to their knees, and when their arms are spread it has the effect of wings. The dresses have all the hues of the rainbow, the wings are painted like birds’ wings, and there are quaint head-dresses suggestive of orchids and dragon flies."
The fairies, it seems, have the power to summon from the earth their mortal counterparts, but the thought of man in fairyland is so horrible that they hesitate to exercise it. There is, however, one consideration that weighs with them, namely, that man, the brute, might by contact with their life immaculate become comparatively respectable. This quaint conceit is expressed in a style that is very characteristic of the author in the following duet, which we are permitted to quote, for two of the leading fairies:—
It is agreed that there is truth in this point of view, and two mortals are summoned from the earth — counterparts of the fairies’ brothers and like them in face and form, and played by the same actors. Instead, however, of being the pure angelic creatures that they were, they are, Sir William pointed out, barbaric knights of Hunnish type.
At the moment when the two knights are summoned from the earth they are engaged in a terrific combat with double-handled swords. After they have recovered from their surprise they continue the duel, and one is wounded. Selene, the Queen of the Fairies, tends his wounds, and takes him to her bower, where he remains several hours. The fairies are all greatly shocked. The evil passions that love brings in its train are let loose. Selene is dethroned, and Darine is elected to be Queen in her place.
"I do not wish to say," Sir William added, "how the opera ends; I would rather keep that as a surpsrise. It may be said, however, that the story, which begins as light comedy and becomes, in the second act, broad comedy, eventually merges into very strong drama, almost tragic. It thus differs from other operas, and to this extent it is experimental. If it succeeds, I hope to follow it with other pieces of the same class.
"Everyone is very sanguine about it, and the music appears to me to be extraordinarily beautiful, equal to anything I have ever had. But, then, I am not an expert. I only speak from the public point of view, and I regard it as very beautiful and, when quaintness is needed, very quaint."
As to the principals, Sir William expressed himself delighted with their performances. Mr. Workman, who in the early part of the opera is a serving fairy, becomes the Knights’ henchman, with a whimsical song, which Sir William is good enough also to allow us to quote, of the lady in the case:
"Miss Nancy McIntosh, who plays the part of Selene, the Fairy Queen, made her debut in ‘Utopia,’ and has since played," Sir William recalled, "in several operas associated with me. She then went for two years to New York, where she played Shakespearean parts. She has great gifts as an actress and a wonderful capacity for delivering blank verse. Miss Maidie Hope comes from the Gaiety and the Playhouse with a high reputation as a singer and an actress, which she has fully justified at rehearsal. She is a very great acquisition and plays the part of Darine, who, after the revolt, is crowned as Queen in the place of Selene. Miss Jessie Rose plays a light comedy part among the fairies. She is distinguished for her brightness, for the clearness of her enunciation, and for her general capacity as an actress. She has been playing at the Savoy the parts that were identified with Miss Jessie Bond, and playing them admirably. Miss Ethel Morrison, who has also a good part, has a most beautiful contralto voice, like the late Miss Rosina Brandram’s. In Mr. Claude Flemming and Mr. Leo Sheffield we have two fine baritones and excellent actors. The whole of the company are distinguished for their clearness of enunciation; we have paid particular attention to that.
"The conductor is Mr. Hamish McCunn — a composer of distinction, whose suggestions at rehearsal have been particularly valuable.
"Judged by the models, the scenery in cloudland painted by Mr. Harker, is also very beautiful," Sir William added. There is a further novelty, in addition to the dramatic turn that is taken by the story. There is no male chorus.
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