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At the Theatre:  Fallen Fairies.

Musical Standard vol. 32 no. 834 (Dec. 25, 1909), p. 413.

With every desire to welcome a success at the Savoy, it must reluctantly be confessed that this new opera, written by W.S. Gilbert and composed by Edward German, makes entertainment which is very far from brilliant.  Expectancy ran high last Wednesday night, for it is a long time since a new production was so extensively paragraphed and boomed beforehand as this was, and, in addition, the names of Gilbert and German naturally aroused great interest.  We were, however, doomed to considerable disappointment, and although a certain leading daily was pleased to head its criticism of the work, “Brilliant success,” this must be taken as an expression of what we all hoped for, rather than a statement of what was actually achieved. 

“Fallen Fairies” is, indeed, dull, and the credit (or otherwise) for this must be given to the author, for the story is almost completely lacking in interest.  The dialogue and the lyrics are well written, of course, being Sir William Gilbert’s, they could scarcely be otherwise – but at the same time they are too obviously Gilbertian, and lack originality.  Perhaps we have become too familiar with the Gilbertian manner, for, now-a-days, one certainly is apt to think it old-fashioned and lacking in humour; doubtless its imitators have done much to destroy its novelty.  At all events, there is no doubt that it is owing to the lack of interest in “the book” that “Fallen Fairies” falls so flat. 

The music on the whole is melodious, although it is by no means full of inspiration, and quite frequently it is of a very obvious type, and might have been written by anyone.  The fact that Sir William would not sanction a male chorus must have handicapped Mr. German severely, and it does seem to have been a ridiculous stipulation.  There is absolutely no reason why a male chorus should not have been introduced, and it would certainly have improved the show.  In the circumstances, Mr. German has done extremely well for the chorus, and, moreover, the chorus does extremely well for Mr. German.  It is a pretty chorus, and it sings with delightful ease and freshness.  During the first act it did not leave the stage, and that was something to be thankful for. 

The opera has been fairly well cast.  Miss Maidie Hope and Miss Jessie Rose both do well; and one would like to see Miss Rose’s ability more fully recognised.  The leading part (that of Selene, the fairy queen) is in the hands of Miss Nancy McIntosh, who, unfortunately, is not good enough for it.  Miss McIntosh lacks charm and personality and her voice, brilliance.  It will be remembered that Miss McIntosh appeared in “The Grand Duke” [sic] thirteen years ago; the last opera that Gilbert and Sullivan wrote together.  Mr. Claude Flemming and Mr. Leo Sheffield are well placed as Ethais and Phyllon, both singing and acting in a vigorous manner.  Mr. Workman, who has expressed the opinion that Lutin is a splendid part, must be very easily satisfied.  What he has to do is certainly done about as well as anyone could do.  It should be noted that “Fallen Fairies” is described as an opera, and not a comic opera.  The dresses have been designed by Mr. Percy Anderson, and many of them are beautiful, but the scene, painted by John Harker (who has done much beautiful work), suggests a gaudy valentine.

S.H. Strong


Transcribed by Arthur Robinson

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