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From The Times, Thursday, June 3, 1886.




This evening the Mikado of Mr. Gilbert and Sir Arthur Sullivan, in the original English version, was performed at the Wallner Theatre, with what must be pronounced a very brilliant success. Of course, it is impossible to foresee what the critics will have to say in to-morrow’s journals about the performance; but no amount of pen-and-ink criticism after the event can be weighed against the hearty and sometimes quite enthusiastic applause which the piece elicited from a large and crowded house, that included the cream of Berlin society. The Crown Prince and Princess, with the Hereditary Grand Duke and Duchess of Meiningen, and the rest of their family, occupied the Royal box, and seemed to take the greatest pleasure in the performance; while Sir Edward and Lady Ermyntrude Malet and the chief members of the Embassy staff were also present. Of course, the Anglo-German colony mustered in strong force, but the vast bulk of the audience was German, and though there may have been a considerable portion of this latter element who failed to appreciate some of the puns and subtler allusions, still they were by no means insensible to the beauty of the music and the charm of the acting; and between the acts one overheard such remarks as “Very original,” “Unique,” and even Grossartig” – which may be rendered “Magnificent.”

The theatre-going world of Berlin has been treated to something of a very novel character, and certainly the first impression produced by it is most favourable. Some of the airs and solos were rapturously encored, as, for instance, Nankipoo’s (sic) “A wandering minstrel I,” the “Three little maids from school are we,” Yum-Yum’s “The sun whose rays are all ablaze” (three or four times encored), “Brightly dawns our wedding day,” and, above all, Nankipoo’s and Ko-Ko’s duet, “The Flowers that bloom in the spring” which had to be repeated four times; while at the close the whole company were enthusiastically cheered and recalled thrice.

It was a bold and critical experiment which Mr. Doyley (sic) Carte resolved to try in this capital, where the English language has hitherto been much more heard in the drawing-room than on the stage. But to-night’s performance has certainly given him a handsome earnest of success, all the more welcome as the open-air season of amusement, which is in full swing, tends to make very thin audiences in all the theatres, and as to-night especially he had to contend against the severe competition of Kroll’s establishment, where was given the first of this year’s promenade concerts. Mr. D’Oyley Carte has taken the Wallner Theatre for 30 nights, at a rental, I am told, of 14,000 marks, or £700, and after running the Mikado for 10 evenings he will try the public taste with Her Majesty’s Ship Pinafore for as long a period, and then, perhaps, make an experiment with a third piece.

Although his company, the one which has been touring in America, only arrived here yesterday from Liverpool, bringing all the dresses and other properties packed in 137 boxes, weighing about 1,200cwt., and although they had only time to go through a hurried rehearsal to-day, the performance, which lasted from 8 to 11, passed off without a hitch of any kind; and after this highly successful beginning it only now remains to be seen how long this bold English venture will continue to fascinate the ear and eye of what is certainly the most critical public in Europe.

Saturday, June 5, 1886. 31778, p. 9, col. C.


In my telegram of Wednesday evening, recording the impression produced by the first performance of The Mikado here, I meant to say that the Anglo-American, and not the Anglo-German colony mustered in strong force. And I ought to have said that Trial by Jury, and not H.M.S. Pinafore, would be the next piece of Messrs. Gilbert and Sullivan presented to the Berlin public. As the evening newspapers did not appear yesterday (Ascension Day), I may now add the following brief quotations on the subject of The Mikado from the chief critiques in to-night’s journals.

The North German Gazette says:– “Since Mr. Phelps, with his company, gave performances here 30 years ago, no English company has appeared upon our stage;” and German managers and actors are urged to take a lesson from the English Mikado and its exponents.

In the Berliner Tageblatt the well-known critic, Professor Heinrich Ehrlich, devotes a highly laudatory notice to the operetta. He regards The Mikado as essentially English in the character of its humour. There is fun from beginning to end, without a hint at indelicacy. He says:– “Mr. Gilbert has produced a masterpiece of brilliant humour and irony, while Sir A. Sullivan shows himself a versatile and spirited composer.”

The Fremdenblatt comments upon the novelty of an English opera company appearing in Berlin. Hitherto, it says, England has been a market for the dramatic and musical productions of other countries, but mow she has become an exporter herself. Yet it claimed that Sir A. Sullivan has obtained “the holy fire of art from German temples.”

The critic of the Post praises Sir A. Sullivan as a composer of the highest elegance in musical expression, and, although he will not allow the merit of great inventiveness, the qualification is added – “This is great praise in these bad times.” The operetta, he says, is made all the more charming by reason of the success with which the Japanese are portrayed, both in deportment and costume. “The unique character of The Mikado as a portrait of Eastern life, the decorative splendour of the piece, and the skill displayed in its performance, are sure to prove of great attractive power.”

In fact, the tone of public criticism is throughout favourable, or rather, to be exact, highly laudatory.

This evening’s performance was witnessed for the second time by the Crown Prince, accompanied by the Grand Duke of Saxe-Weimar, who both applauded heartily, while the large house was again well filled with a distinguished audience, that displayed no less enthusiasm than at the first performance; and some of the solos and part-songs were repeatedly encored. The libretto is printed in parallel columns of English and German – the latter from the pen of Dr. Carlotta who has done the very difficult work of translation, or rather, indeed, of transfusion, with commendable skill.

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