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Savoy. – Fallen Fairies.

Athenaeum no. 4286 (Dec. 18, 1909), p. 770.

The new opera by Sir William Gilbert and Edward German, which was brought forward last Wednesday evening, is, so far as the “book” is concerned, a fresh version of the same author’s ‘The Wicked World,’ produced nearly thirty-seven years ago at the Haymarket, with Mr. and Mrs. Kendal, Miss Amy Roselle, and J.B. Buckstone in the cast.  The fairies in question have the power, when two of their number quit their homes to visit earth, to summon the absent fairies’ counterpart, [sic] and on the pretext that observation of their “lives immaculate” might change man’s “normal immorality,” they decide to exchange their brothers, Ethais and Phyllon, for earthly counterparts.  When these appear, they are found to be Hunnish knights vigorously engaged in combat with double-handed swords.  Ethais is wounded, whereupon Selene, the Fairy Queen, carries him off to her bower, where she tends him, and, falling in love with him, gives him her ring.  Darine, at first enamoured of Phyllon, subsequently grows jealous of Selene, and sends off Lutin, a Serving Fairy, to obtain from his earthly counterpart, Phyllon’s henchman, a potion that will heal the wounds of Ethais.  Receiving it, she persuades Ethais to hand over Selene’s ring in exchange for the draught which shall enable him to regain his strength and continue the combat with Phyllon.  The jealous fairies are easily persuaded to degrade Selene, and proclaim Darine as their Queen; but Ethais and Phyllon have grown tired of the constant squabbles, and take their departure for earth, where “women are not devils till they die.”  Peace being restored in fairyland, Selene is forgiven, and resumes her position as Queen.

Unfortunately, the first act of the new opera is more than a trifle dull.  Except the well-written and melodious choruses for the fairies, there is little of interest until the arrival of the Hunnish knights, whose duet, effectively sung by Mr. Claude Flemming and Mr. Leo Sheffield, is of a bold and spirited character.  A bright and pretty song for Selene, which falls to the share of Miss Nancy McIntosh, engaged the ear agreeably, but musically the first act is far inferior to the second.

In this act we note a charming song and dainty dance for Zayda, a part in which Miss Jessie Rose appears to advantage; and an effective song for Darine, whose representative, Miss Maidie Hope, has a good voice, which she manages well.  She is also associated in a cleverly written and piquantly orchestrated duet with Mr. Leo Sheffield, the Phyllon, who is likewise a meritorious singer.

The choruses – which throughout the opera are for female voices only – are attractive, especially the number sung while Darine is being crowned.  The wittiest and most whimsical song in the work is that allotted to Lutin, who proclaims that

In yonder world, which devils strew
  With worry, grief, and pain in plenty,
This maxim is accounted true
  With nemine dissentiente:
A woman doth the mischief brew,
  In nineteen cases out of twenty!

In the part of the Serving Fairy Mr. C.H. Workman shows his customary resourcefulness, and makes the most of somewhat limited opportunities.

Although the new opera does not rank on an equality as regards merit with the Gilbert and Sullivan series, it has its good points, and with some condensation of the second act – which drags towards the close – has a fair prospect of success.


Transcribed by Arthur Robinson

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