|Princess Ida > > First Night Review
OUR LONDON LETTER.
In the musical world the past week was marked by two conspicuous events — the production of a new play at the Savoy and of a new opera at Covent Garden. "Princess Ida" was most favourably received, but then the verdict of a first night is not always conclusive, unless when it ends in the damnation of the piece. Of the brutal sincerity of that kind of verdict there can be no possible doubt. "Princess Ida" seems to have less spontaneity than the works which have preceded it on the same boards. Mr. Gilbert moves as if he was hampered, and so in truth he was. He has merely suited his old comic opera, written a dozen years ago, to the style which he has taught his public to expect, and the result is that there is a sense of pieceing and fitting and altering felt all through the work.
Moreover, there is no novelty in it, no surprises, and but little dramatic interest. The literary merit is certainly above average, though not above Mr. Gilbert's average. But we know what we are going to see. It is a foregone conclusion, and the satire on women as lords of the creation is tame and flat. In "Pinafore" and "Patience" Mr. Gilbert shot folly as it flew past him; in the "Pirates" and "Iolanthe" the plots were complicated, ingenious, and interesting, but the "Princess" disappoints for the very illogical reason that we know what we may expect.
The music is better than the libretto, and shows a change or rather an advance in the composer's style. The songs are fewer and not so good, the concerted music more ambitious, more elaborate, and more masterly.
The piece has been mounted sumptuously, and if only Mr. Gilbert had given Mr. Grossmith more lines, and if Nature had given Miss Braham more inches, the distribution of the parts would have been perfect. An insignificant Amazon is rather an anti-climax — Miss Braham acts the part perfectly, but does not look it.
It was strange that the production of this opera should, as in the case of "The The Magic Ring" only a few weeks ago, be attended with the sudden illness of the composer. The truth is that after attending many rehearsals and drilling orchestra and chorus indefatigably, the task of conducting on a first night is felt to be very severe. Sir Arthur happily is in no danger, needing only some rest which he is well able to take, and Mr. Clay seems to have turned the corner of a danger about which his friends have been undisguisedly anxious.
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