You are here: Archive Home > Sullivan > Major Works > The Beauty Stone > Review from The Lute
 
   
The Gilbert and Sullivan Archive   The Beauty Stone

Review from The Lute
June 4, 1898.

JUDGED from a rational point of view this new piece now being played at the Savoy Theatre, London, is the best work of its kind that has been seen for many years. Sir Arthur Sullivan had written good music before, and Messrs. Pinero and Comyns Carr had each done good work, though I think never in collaboration, before. But in " The Beauty Stone " there would really seem to be combined all the qualities which should form an ideal light opera, and from an artistic standpoint the joint production of these three men is pretty nearly
perfect.

Judged by the gauge of popular appreciation "The Beauty Stone " may possibly not be
phenomenally successful. Being absolutely innocent of brutality or vulgarity, it is as little likely to appeal in the strongest way either to undiscriminating audiences as to undiscerning and, in some cases, illiterate press men. Visitors who have become saturated with "Variety " pieces, with "Gaiety," "Shop," "Circus" and other girls, will be left comparatively cold by less highly spiced fare, and it is in the nature of things that certain critics should mistrust or resent the wholesale introduction of a refinement which they have never understood or long since turned their backs upon. Nevertheless "The Beauty Stone" will remain in my memory long after it is taken off the boards of the Savoy for several good reasons which may roughly be stated as follows:—

1. The story is one of the most ingenious and interesting that has ever done duty in a piece of this kind. The rare surprise reserved for the conclusion is among the happiest
inspirations on record. Poetic justice is wrought in an unconventional way, withal the
most natural. Apart from every other consideration one is enabled to take a reasonable
interest in the plot; an interest which is subtly sustained until the end.

2. The language not only of the lyrics but of the spoken dialogue, is noble without being
pedantic ; the words are dignified, pathetic, witty as occasion demands, with consistently
maintained propriety, and in invariable correspondence with the situations.

3. The music is some of the finest ever written by Sir Arthur, because he was never
before treated to such an opportunity, of which he, at least, saw the excellence. I am not
making any comparison between his work in " The Beauty Stone " and his work when
writing to Mr. Gilbert's lines because the two cases admit of no comparison though some of my daily contemporaries devoted about half a column to finding this out. In "The Beauty Stone" he has not so much scope for the inimitable Gilbertian "patter" song. But he has infinitely more scope for picturesque, descriptive and heart-felt music. He avails himself of the grand chances afforded him as only he could. He reflects the poetical aspect of the story with consummate art, and that just perception of values which has long ago stamped him as worthy of the eminence to which he has attained. The transitions from grave to gay, and vice versa, are managed with a delicate and satisfactory neatness, which is unapproached by
Humperdinck, or the vaunted composers of " Der Vogelhandler," " Die Verkaufte Braut " and " Der Evangelimann." [The Teutons, especially the Austrians, would appear to he a naïf people, practically destitute of the sense of humour in music.—ED.] To "The Beauty Stone" he has brought not only his inherent vivacity, but an almost French enthusiasm in certain places. I am writing from memory only, but I think the finale of Act I may rank with anything that ever emanated from his fertile and curiously nice brain.

4. As regards the singing and acting of the company there can only be one verdict. Everybody on the stage is more or less distinguished both as vocalist and comedian. Miss Rosina Brandram, as the Weaver's Wife, added yet one more picture to her gallery of careful and clever impersonations. Miss Pauline Joran as Saida, an Oriental lady who has been somewhat hardly treated by the authors, presented a pleasing exterior and showed considerable dramatic power. Saida is the sole sufferer in the story; but she never behaved otherwise than extremely naturally, and she would certainly have had all my sympathy had her
rival, Laine, not been played by Miss Ruth Vincent. I suppose somebody must suffer, though I was very sorry for Saida, all the same. But Miss Vincent as the heroine, Laine, with her appealing grace, and perfect charm, would make any rough places smooth, and were she a female villain instead of a saint, the suffrages of the audience would be " all for her."

5. The dresses designed by Mr. Percy Anderson are the best I have seen on the stage. They reproduce a period which has been very slightly exploited by the costumier, and deal with the high head-gear for women of the Tudors' time, and the closely-fitting coif which forms so admirable a setting for pretty faces. There used to be an advertisement which embodied the portrait of a certain"Nun Niger." Well, all the ladies at the Savoy look more or less like her. And there are Nun Nicer (racing joke). The scenery is superb.

It may, perhaps, be admitted that I have to a certain extent given reasons for the strong
opinion expressed at the head of these remarks. I have done scant justice to any one of my
contentions, categorically set forth, after Arabian numerals, though they be. In conclusion, I can only repeat my profound conviction that "The Beauty Stone " is quite the best light opera which has graced the stage during my short if misspent existence on this sublunary sphere.

RAPPEE.


Archive Home  |  Sullivan  |  Major Works  |  The Beauty Stone

   Page modified 14 September, 2011 Copyright © 2011 The Gilbert and Sullivan Archive All Rights Reserved.