Fairies > Review from The Daily Mail
SIR W.S. GILBERT'S NEW SAVOY OPERA.
Daily Mail issue 4270, Dec. 16, 1909.
All the Savoyards and trusty Yeomen of the Guard were assembled last night at the Savoy Theatre to cheer the production of "Fallen Fairies," and when at the end Sir W. Gilbert spoke of his play as "experimental" and hoped that the audience would agree that there was "life in the old dog yet," a plaudit as of the good old days arose, and we all did agree vociferously and acknowledgingly. Sir William, standing among his "Fallen Fairies," looked the embodiment of rude health and serenity, a figure in his dress clothes many a modern youth might envy, ruddy, tall and straight.
Sir William spoke of the play as being "experimental." In some ways it certainly is. The fact is, it is a curious medley of three things — the earth, fairyland, and tragedy. What I have to complain of is this.
There is not enough dancing, not enough fairiness, not enough mystery. The fairies know no love, no earthly passion, no sense of jealousy and possession, no call of lover's song and melody, and live like sisters of mercy and charity in the garden of wonderland, with only Lutin, the sprite, as male among them. And to them come Sir Ethais and Sir Phyllon, prototypes of their shape in fairyland, who, of course, do the right thing and fall in love. Now love, even in fairyland, proves as lovely and demoralising as it does on earth.
The beautiful Queen falls hopelessly in the coils of the splendiferous Sir Ethais, a sort of Visigoth Viking figure, and naughty Darine does the same thing with the same mundane consequences. Love's token leads to love's potion, the potion to jilted affection and the transference of Sir Ethais's love to Darine, and the jilt to the deposition of the Fairy Queen who countenanced the coming of the mortals, whence Nirvana finally is reached again by the departure of the men to earth and the reawakening of the fairies to bland ignorance and innocence.
It is a pretty bit of fairy fooling: quaint, always delicate, romantic, subtle, and prickly with the deft versification for which Sir William has long been famous.
In many, many respects it is a delight to hear a play such as this--void of all music-hall coarseness and buffoonery, with no low-comedian pantaloonery, no "turns," no "hits" for the gallery, no spices for the stalls, a play which is a unity rippling with a sparkling literary humour, so essentially English, and onomatopoetic. But just as Mr. Bernard Shaw makes all his heroes talk Shaw, so Sir William is always Gilbertian in all his types and prototypes, fairies, mortals, and their paths.
One listens amused and wondering. Where is the modern psychology, the fairy touch, the little poetic atmosphere? Well, one cannot have everything, to be sure; this at any rate offers rival cheer to the fairness of Maeterlinck and the gambols of Pinkie and his little people. The house made a great noise and seemed to enjoy it--the rippling, alliterative, autological, platitudinous persiflage of the play in the right royal spirit of the golden Savoy age.
Mr. German's music adequately "fits the crime." Well scored, always tuneful, easy, playful, light, fantastic, with a pleasing, dancing rhythm, it may not be the composer's best work--it has not the stuff of his "Tom Jones" music--but it is very pretty and harmonious, and some of the songs and duets are quite delicious in a very refined and winsome fashion. The music is, in fact, the feature of the production and deserves all praise.
It is impossible to enumerate all the virtues of all the fairies, but Miss Nancy McIntosh as the Queen was delightfully graceful, soft and white, and sang very prettily, if with a small voice, the pretty songs allotted to her, and at the end had a tragic scene quite in the vein of Mrs. Brown Porter. Miss Jessie Rose is a tremendous favourite at the Savoy, and quite vindicated her reputation, and Miss Maidie Hope, as Darine, was well and comely. Mortals were Mr. Claude Flemming, big, bold, operatic, and melodious, and Mr. Sheffield as second lover.
And then there was the pleasing grace of Mr. Workman. He was very good, in the old traditional style, moving about with that delightful ease which is his,singing his songs with wonderful point, precision, and articulateness, really the Puck of the piece, much applauded, wholly genuine.
Much more, artistically, might be made of the scene, and it is really a pity that the managers have gone in for garish scenic conventionality rather than for the harmonious tone and light colouring of modern stage effect. If "Fallen Fairies" is an experiment it is one well worth trying. If it fails it will only show how fickle is the glass of fashion and how unstable and unreliable are its vagaries.
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