|Princess Ida > > D Company in Glasgow
D Company in Glasgow
Glasgow Herald (Glasgow, Scotland), Tuesday, February 5, 1884; Issue 31.
The first performance in the provinces of Gilbert and Sullivan's new opera took place last night at the "Royalty," and in presence of a large and delighted audience.
For reasons best known to himself Mr. Gilbert has not opened up fresh ground. Thus, his latest contribution to the particular class of musical art which includes "Pinafore," "Patience," and other popular works is simply a furbished up edition of "The Princess," produced at the Royal Olympic Theatre some fourteen years ago. The play-book describes it as "a whimsical allegory, a respectful perversion of Mr. Tennyson's poem." Much of the dialogue to be found in this early effort has been imported into the operatic version under notice. A mere glance shows, indeed, that the operation has been a wholesale one. The lyrics are, however, new, as has already been stated in the account of the opera which appeared in the Herald on the production of the work at the Savoy Theatre early last month.
That account was so full that it is quite unnecessary to again enter into details, showing how the Prince Hilarion was betrothed in the twelfth month of his existence; how his baby bride, the Princess Ida, became in process of time, the principal of a female university; and how the sacred academical precincts were rigorously closed against "Man," because, amongst other misfortunes, he happens to be "Nature's sole mistake." This must be correct, for "full a hundred girls" have said so. "They're safety matches, sir, and they light only on the knowledge box," declares King Gama, and as he is the principal's father he ought, also, to know all about her wondrous "Castle Adamant." Only "letter mails" arrive within those walls. Mr. Gilbert's college suffers not even "Dr. Watts' hymns," and, as all the animals owned by the Princess are "hers," there cannot possibly be any doubt about the exclusive character of this latest Alma Mater.
Before parting with the clever writer of the Bab Ballads we have yet to say that it would be somewhat odd did he fail to adjust matters after approved stage methods. He doesn't. The Prince and his friends have scaled certain sacred walls, they have donned the lady undergraduates robes, consternation dire and dread follows the discovery of the "man-monsters," and, after a little bit, the happiness of everybody is supreme.
While the libretto cannot be said to overdose with incongruities and absurdities of a familiar enough type, and while one or two lines might be eliminated with advantage, yet the "book" contains material of a droll complexion, and Mr. Gilbert's satire is polished and delicate as of yore.
His coadjutor has given us some exceedingly agreeable music. Now and again old friends with new faces call, and make themselves thoroughly well at home, and Sir Arthur Sullivan's imitations of more than one of the great masters are again acceptable by reason of their consummate skill. Voices and orchestra join in a refreshing mimicry, nowhere more remarkable than in the song for Arac towards the end of the opera, a number which might well have stepped out of one of Handel's works. Here the treatment of the string contingent of the band has been conceived in an admirable style, but, indeed, all through the opera Sir Arthur's orchestration is an engaging study. His combinations are often simple enough, wonderfully so when we note the felicitous effects obtained by legitimate means. One or two of the more prominent numbers in the work may be singled out for mention; almost every one, it must be candidly admitted, was last night held in signal favour by the audience. Good nature prevailed, indeed, throughout the presentation, the encores being so numerous that we fail to remember the one half of them.
Several "trios" have been written to some purpose. Thus, abundant humour is to be found in the one describing all the wonderful phenomena pertaining to the "Universitee." The succeeding example "I am a maiden" has a busy and tuneful refrain; and a fresh and dainty number beginning "Expressive glances" remains as one of the most agreeable pieces in Act 1. The quintette in the second act — inpure opera comique fashion — and the jocose duet for Melissa and Lady Blanche — remarkable also for its quaint, old world flavour — are pleasing and melodious, and so, generally speaking, are the various choruses. Some were sung with excellent effect, but others erred on the side of roughness. The material appears, however, to be good, and the needful refinement may be secured by a few extra rehearsals.
Miss Esme Lee sustained the part of the Princess. Her song "I built upon a rock" was given with earnestness and purity of intonation. In this air the ingenious work for the brass instruments could hardly escape observation. Miss Lee also made much of her aria in the second act, as fine a thing as the composer has sent out for a long time. Miss Fanny Edwards' notions of "The three possibilities" were set forth with all the needful drollery; and in her new rôle — a professor of "Abstract Philosophy" — she experienced great favour, singing also Lady Blanche's air "Come Mighty Must" with her well known breadth of style. Melissa found a bright and highly capable exponent in Miss Beatrix Young, admirable point and humour marking her realisation in the opening scene with Florian. The Lady Psyche is also efficiently represented by Miss Minna Louis.
Mr. David Fisher, jun., as the King Gama of the cast, a part which unfortunately gives him but little to do. Needless to say it could hardly be in more acceptable keeping, and this was amply shown by the reception recorded the favourite comedian. Mr. Fred Billington is an admirable King Hildebrand; Hilarion's song "Whom thou hast chained" was carefully sung by Mr. Courtice Pounds, and Cyril and Florian were worthily personated, respectively, by Mr. C. Rowan and Mr. Federici. So, it must also be added, were Gama's sons, those warriors being represented by Messrs. Hayes, Hendon and Roche.
The band was very good, and it will doubtless give an excellent account of itself with increased familiarity with its interesting work. Mr. Knapp has mounted the opera on a scale of great completeness. It would be more correct to say that seldom has the "Royalty" stage presented such a bright and attractive appearance. The costumes are rich and elegant in their design, the grouping at the end of the second act is highly artistic, and Mr. R. S. Smyth's picturesque scenery has justly earned for him warm commendation, that provided for the act just named more especially.
The Era (London, England), Saturday, February 9, 1884; Issue 2368.
ROYALTY. —Lessee and Manager, Mr. E. L. Knapp. — Princess Ida, the latest Gilbert-Sullivan effort, was presented here, for the first time in the provinces, on Monday evening, by Mr. D'Oyly Carte's specialty-organised company. There was a good although not crowded audience and it may be stated at the outset that the reception accorded to the work was entirely favourable, and augurs well for its provincial career. Still the applause was not always so spontaneous as to make it safe to predict for The Princess Ida the same degree of success — an extraordinary degree, truly — which attended H.M.S. Pinafore, The Pirates of Penzance, and Patience.
A good deal of the success was due to the way in which the work was placed on the stage. No more rich and elegant costumes could be imagined, while the armour was dazzling in its brilliancy. The scenery, too, from the brush of our clever townsman Mr. R. S. Smythe, was exceedingly elaborate and beautiful, the Courtyard of Castle Adamant being in particular a "set" that should make a name for any artist. Alike in design, colouring, and execution, it did Mr. Smythe infinite credit.
Mr. Carte's company is not the best he has sent round, but, making allowance for a first night, it proved fairly equal to the work in hand. Miss Esme Lee as the Princess Ida looked very charming, and sang the music allotted to her with artistic taste and discrimination. Miss Fanny Edwards was all that could be desired as Lady Blanche, singing and acting with all her wonted finish. The Melissa of Miss Beatrix Young was a graceful and very natural performance. Miss Minna Louis was also very pleasing as Lady Psyche, and the Girl Graduates were also impersonated by charming specimens of the fair sex.
Among the male characters the palm was undoubtedly carried off by Messrs. Fred. Billington and David Fisher, jun., as Kings Hildebrand and Gama respetively. The acting of the former as the brusque, matter-of-fact, outspoken King was most artistic, nor was his singing a whit less so. Mr. Fisher's assumption of the misshapen old cynic was so good as to make the smallness of the part the more apparent. No need to say that he rendered the inevitable patter song in a way that pleased every one. Gama's three sons were fairly played by Messrs. Hayes, Hendon, and Roche. Mr. Federici was excellent as Florian, his capital baritone voice being heard to much advantage in the trio in the second act with Hilarion and Cyril, parts which — musically speaking — were somewhat weakly performed by Messrs. C. Pounds and C. Rowan respectively. The gentlemen in question had a proper histrionic conception of their parts, but neither their voices nor their vocalisation seemed quite equal to the demands made on them. Nearly every important number was encored, the audience at times being a trifle more friendly than discreet. The band and chorus got through very well, and will improve with a few performances.
Page modified 29 December, 2011 Copyright © 2011 The Gilbert and Sullivan Archive All Rights Reserved.