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THE “MIKADO” IN VIENNA.
VIENNA, MARCH 2.
The first performance of Sir Arthur Sullivan’s and Mr. Gilbert’s charming operetta The Mikado in German was given here this evening at the Theater an der Wein. The event has excited considerable interest in the musical circles of this city of music, for no English operatic work has ever before been brought before the Viennese public with a German libretto. The music of The Mikado has, however, long been popular in Vienna. On two occasions, in the autumn of 1886 and the spring of 1887, The Mikado was performed in English at the Carl Theatre by excellent casts of Mr. D’Oyly Carte’s English opera company, and Eduard Strauss has also helped popularize the operetta by the selections which his orchestra has played at promenade concerts. In fact, the general liking shown for the merry music of Sullivan’s masterpiece accounts for the production of the operetta to-day with a German adaptation of Mr. Gilbert’s words.
The German librettists are MM. Zell and Richard Génée. They had difficult work, for Mr. Gilbert’s astonishing jokes, puns, and humorous sallies are not easily rendered in a foreign language, but the librettists, having caught the humour of the play, had the sense not to stick too closely to their text, but consulted German taste in altering and inventing. This they did, however, without changing or omitting one note of the music, and the result has been, so far as they are concerned, most satisfactory.
Whether The Mikado in German will have a long run is another matter. Those who attended the general rehearsal yesterday and the first performance this evening must feel that while the orchestra was better than that which was heard in the English performances at the Carl Theatre, and while the singing of the Viennese artists was in some cases superior to that of the English strolling players, the Viennese performance was on the whole wanting in the liveliness and good all-round acting which earned so much applause for Mr. D’Oyly Carte’s admirably drilled troupe. It must, of course, be remembered that the English performers who appeared in Vienna had been acting together nightly for months, so that each had become expert in bringing out the points of his part. Before the Viennese troupe could be fairly compared with the English one we should have to wait for a 40th or 50th performance. At the same time, it would be doing an injustice to our English actors and actresses not to admit that they have qualities peculiarly adapted for burlesque forms of dramatic entertainment – qualities such as German artists do not always acquire, even with long practice.
Fräulein Collin, who played Yum-Yum, is a popular favourite, but she altogether failed to seize the spirit of her part. She was too serious and sentimental. She sang fairly, but just when vivacity was wanted she evinced a solidity which prevented the fun conveyed by her words from being carried beyond the footlights. Herr Streitmann as Nanki-Poo, Herr Stelzer as Koko (sic), and Herr Lindau as the Mikado did better; while Fräulein Stein, in the part of Katisha, sang and acted with a full comprehension of her rôle. Altogether, Herr Streitmann and Fräulein Stein may be said to have nearly come up to the best English models, but they were not well supported by the members of the chorus, male and female, who seemed to sing and posture under the distressing conviction that they were doing things absolutely out of the beaten track of German acting, and hardly worth learning for mere temporary purposes.
It may be noted that all of the topical allusions in the songs of Koko and the Mikado were changed to suit Viennese grievances and fancies, while the very word of majesty and all remarks calculated to bring majesty into ridicule were studiously omitted. The Mikado was addressed as “Highness,” and the rank of Cabinet Minister was denied to Koko. The Imperial dramatic censorship does not relish pleasantries about potentates and dignitaries.
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