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"D" (Princess Ida No. 1) Company in Dublin

Freeman's Journal and Daily Commercial Advertiser (Dublin, Ireland), Tuesday, April 29, 1884; Issue N/A.


Last night this latest outcome of the genius of Sullivan and Gilbert was presented at the Gaiety Theatre. The house was crowded, and as was reasonable to expect, a great deal of interest was shown in the performance.

At the outset, one may, without hesitation, in criticizing "the Princess Ida," describe it as a work which, though the most recent effort in the direction of comic opera by its joint authors, it is likely to be the first that will be forgotten. It has, of course, many of the beauties of its predecessors, and it is to that fact that it owes its favourable reception, but there is little in it that deserves higher praise than that it agreeably recalls the features that were wont to make people crazy about the new revelation in the region of comic opera. Dublin may consider itself very fortunate in hearing this new work so soon after its first production, for the practice has rather grown to treat us as such a very provincial town that to hear a fresh work within a couple of years after it had gone round the world was about as much as we deserved.

The explanation of the extraordinary success which has attended the productions of the authors of "Pinafore" is to be found in the fact that the strange whimsical peculiarities of the author of the "Bab Ballads" found in Arthur Sullivan a marvellous musical counterpart — one who managed somehow to give us exactly the same ideas as his colleague through a totally different medium of expression. "Princess Ida," as the book of words tells us, is a "respectful perversion" of Tennyson's "Princess;" but so far as this same book is concerned it is really little else than a reproduction of a "burlesque drama" by Gilbert, presented many years ago at one of the London theatres, it does not matter which.

In its present form it shows us the best side of the author's powers as a rhymster. His disjointed types of character, his strange but subtle touches of humour and satire, his unapproachable contrasts and grotesque inconsistencies and conceits, are reproduced with much of their old familiar force. Indeed, no one can fail to be impressed with the startling family likeness of the music and words of these operas. The names of the characters, the precise point of the story, the actual words may be as different as you like, but somehow the same old situations recur, the same individuals reappear in different dresses, no doubt, the same quaint diction is recalled, and for the music you have the "patter" song, the plaintive ballad, the old English refrains, and the operatic "ensemble" that lent such a charm to the "Pirates" and the rest of them.

The stage effects, too, are as of old. The love-sick maidens who prostrated themselves around Grosvenor in "Patience" reappear in "Princess Ida" and listen to her and to Prince Hilarion, and conduct themselves generally just as they did in the former piece. One might reasonably wonder that now at least the "Siamese twins of satire and song" – as in these columns the gifted authors were once before named — did not try to strike out some fresh vein in the musical mine and give us something really new. But so long as the old thing pays perhaps it is too much to expect a change.

Without for a moment attempting the ridiculous task of sketching the plot, as it is too often the practice on a first production, it may be said that the outline follows at the laureate's closely enough — a statement which may possibly obtain for the latter some additional readers. The fun turns principally upon the entrance of three gallants disguised as ladies into the society of "girl graduates."

In the prologue which precedes the action proper of the piece there is a capital swinging chorus "For the fair Princess and her good Papa;" with the refrain, "Hip, Hip, Hurrah," and the dance that accompanies this is interesting and effective. King Gama (Mr. David Fisher, junr.), is just a sort of man after Mr. Gilbert's own heart, and his song reminds one of an old friend or two of the same description. He explains, amongst other things, that —

I'm sure I'm no ascetic, I'm as pleasant as can be,
You'll always find me ready with a crushing repartee.
I've an irritating chuckle, I've a celebrated sneer,
I've an entertaining snigger, I've a fascinating leer.
To everybody's prejudice, I know a thing or two;
I can tell a woman's age in half a minute — and I do.
But although I try to make myself as pleasant as I can,
Yet everybody says I'm such a disagreeable man,
  And I can't think why.

He subsequently laments —

Oh; don't the days seem lank and long
When all goes right and nothing goes wrong,
And isn't your life extremely flat
With nothing whatever to grumble at.

Mr. Fisher gave his songs with all the humour and rapidity they require, and his voice is somewhat better than it was. The humour of this character so resembling that of the Major-General, John Wellington Wells, and the First Lord, is given scarcely sufficient opportunity to develop itself, for Gama absent during a very considerable portion of the opera.

In the prologue, and before the father and three brothers of the Princess are marched off to "a dungeon cell," and are seen no more for ever so long, there is an amusing trio, in which the brothers com plain of the hardship inflicted on one

Who is longing for the rattle
Of a complicated battle.

The musical arrangement of this scene is exceedingly clever. The song of Hilarion and his friends, "Expressive glances," is very melodious.

The speech of the Princess Ida to the students is full of Gilbertian fun. She says —

"Diplomacy? The wiliest diplomat
Is absolutely helpless in our hands.
He wheedles monarchs — woman wheedles him!
Logic? Why tyrant man himself admits
It's waste of time to argue with a woman."

Lady Blanche, in answer to a question "Who lectures on art?" replies in a most comical speech, dealing with "Three points — the Is, the Might be, and the Must," and the scene with the girl graduates and the male intruders is excruciatingly funny.

It is difficult in speaking of the music to avoid repeating the fact that a good deal of it is in the nature of a rewriting of what has already been better done by Mr. [sic] Sullivan — the variations being certainly not in the nature of improvements. Some very charming music has been given to Hilarion (Mr. Pounds). Notably the air, "Whom thou hast chained," and "Ida was a twelvemonth old" are well written and effective. To Lady Blanche (Miss Edwards) has been committed much that recalls Lady Jane and her prototype in "Pinafore." The song, "Come might Must," [sic] although not particularly striking was exceedingly well sung by Miss Edwards, and all the music of Melissa, some of which is very characteristic, was most tastefully given by Miss Beatrix Young. The duet, "Sing hoity-toity'' — one of the most graceful numbers in the opera, was charmingly sung; and the glee for male voices, "This helmet," is very good, and somewhat suggests "He is an Englishman." Very effective tenor music falls to Cyril, capably  performed by Mr. Charles Rowan, who, however, was not successful in his rendering of the kissing song. He won, however, a merited encore for his singing of "As for fashion," the refrain to which is very like that of the "Policeman's Chorus."

Opinions will naturally differ as to the comparative merits of "Princess Ida;" but of this there can be no doubt, that it puts an audience into the very best of good humour; its melodies are striking, the orchestration is exceedingly good, and the opportunities for stage effect admirably availed of. The performance was uniformly good. In addition to the artists already mentioned, Miss Esma [sic] Lee deserves recognition for her graceful, unobtrusive, but very effective acting as the Princess, and her voice has very much improved. Mr. Frederici [sic] was an admirable Florian, and Mr. Fred Bellington [sic] made the very most out of the part of King Hildebrand.

The scenery and dresses were most attractive, and the opera generally was put on the stage with the utmost possible completeness.

The Era (London, England), Saturday, May 3, 1884; Issue 2380.

GAIETY THEATRE. — Mr. Michael Gunn, Proprietor; Mr. M.J. Doyle, General Manager. — On Monday evening Mr. R. D'Oyly Carte's D Company produced for the first time in this city Princess Ida. Miss Lee, Princess Ida, has made good use of her time since her last appearance, and was much applauded. Miss Fanny Edwards, as Lady Blanche, was admirable, being in all points artistic and effective. Melissa was entrusted to Miss Beatrix Young. Lady Psyche was excellently represented by Miss M. Louis. Mr. Courtice Pounds's fine voice was heard to great effect as Hilarion. King Gama was humorously portrayed by Mr. David Fisher. Mr. Rowan did well as Cyril. Mr. Fred Billington's King Hildebrand was rendered with ability. Mr. F. Federici was most artistic as Florian.

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