Gilbert and Sullivan Archive


Opening Night Review

This review of the opening night of the revised version of Mirette ran in the London Times on Monday, October 8, 1894.

The new version of Mirette, brought out on Saturday night, is in nearly all respects a great improvement on the piece as originally produced. The libretto has been a good deal more altered than the music; the lyrical numbers are, most of them, provided with new words by Adrian Ross, and the dialogue has been in many cases altered out of recognition. Several transpositions in the order of the numbers have been made, and an explanation is at least attempted for the presence of two of the gipsies as part of the Marquise's household, since the capture of the band is now made to take place on a piece of land that belongs to the Marquise. The reason may not be a very obvious one, but its invention shows that the authors were conscious of the weakness of the plot as it stood before. In the third act, too, Gerard is made to join fortunes with the gipsies, and is provided with a big drum, upon which he performs in the fair scene with a droll expression of misery on his face. A few minor parts have been struck out, the part of the dancing girl has been written up, and that of the Baron has become far more prominent than before, giving opportunity for one of those scenes of elderly love-making which are so dear to the habitues of the house. One or two instances of very doubtful taste are to be found in the new libretto, notably in the drinking song, which before was only silly; and in one point a return has been made to the less excellent traditions of the Savoy dating from a period when opera after opera bristled with witticisms founded upon the striking contrast between the physical proportions of Miss Emma Barnett and Mr. Grossmith. No joke amused the audience of Saturday night more than one made at her own expense by Miss Kate Rolla, a buxom lady to whom the principal part is now allotted, and whose voice, when she sang in grand opera some six seasons ago, was in better condition than it is at present. She is sufficiently vivacious, and has apparently had no lack of stage experience.

The idea suggested by the musical alterations in the piece is that M. Messager has set himself, or has been requested, to assimilate his music as far as may be to that of Sir Arthur Sullivan. The main additions to the score are a chorus and dance of gipsies in Act I., the former of which was apparently imperfectly known by the singers; in the second act a very merry trio, in which Gerard and Mirette are continually disturbed by Picorin, armed now with a dusting-brush, now with a bouquet; an extremely commonplace song about a fan, for the Marquise and chorus; and a bright finale. To counterbalance these additions, two of the most admirable things in the original have been sacrificed in this act -- the clever and effective interruption of the courtly dance by the gipsy music, and the Marquise's beautiful sing, "Life to you is fairyland." The new part of the last act is wholly commendable; the duet for Bobinet and Zerbinette, "The long, long bow," is far better than the conventional song it replaces; the quintet, at the end of which the singers proceed to cut each other dead, is a very happy imitation of the Sullivan manner, and another old friend is the duet between the Baron and the Marquise near the end. In this number Miss Brandram is associated with Mr. Richard Temple, upon whose re-engagement the management is to be sincerely congratulated. The very favourable reception of the piece in its altered form was such as to permit the confident expectation that a partial will be turned into a complete success.

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