Theatre in Melbourne 1883

"The most terrible mining accident that has occurred in the colony since the Creswick disaster happened tonight at the Ellenborough mine, Eaglehawk, and it has thrown that township into a terrible state of excitement. About half-past six o'clock eight men were working in the stopes above the 720 feet level, securing the ground, when an immense mass of quartz of about fifty tons weight fell. all escaped with slight injuries, save (three men), (one was) jammed against the wall, and it took two hours to rescue him. (The two others) were crushed under the mass, and it is certain their death was immediate. Efforts were made to extricate them, but the work was of great danger and difficult, and was not completed till nearly one o'clock this morning. The mine was surrounded by hundreds of anxious people, and the scene upon the bodies being brought to the surface was very affecting. An inquest will be held tomorrow." "

(The Age Tuesday April 24th, 1883)

Sunday services at the Theatre Royal. Courtesy National Library of Australia

The Theatre Royal interior, Melbourne


Whether it is on account of the warmer climate I do not know, but certainly the colonists are a more musical people than the English. Of course I do not mean that there are any considerable number of people here who really understand classical music, or who play any instrument or sing really well. On the contrary, as I think I have said in some other connection, there is no part of the world where you hear so much bad music, professional and amateur. But it is also true, that there are few parts where you hear so much music. Almost every working-man has his girls taught to strum the piano. Amateur concerts are exceedingly popular. Most young people think they can sing, and Nature has certainly endowed the young colonials with, on the average, far better and more numerous voices than she has bestowed on English boys and girls. Sometimes when you are bored in a drawing-room by bad music and poor singing, you are inclined to think that the colonial love of music is an intolerable nuisance. Especially is this the case with me, who have been constantly interrupted in writing by my neighbour's daughters strumming the only two tunes they know--and those tunes 'Pinafore,' and 'Madame Angot.' But if you are out for a walk on a summer's evening, and look into the windows of working men's cottages, you will see the old folk after their day's labour gathered round the piano in the sitting-room to hear their daughters play. I cannot hold with those who think a working-man's daughter should not learn music. Their reasoning is illogical--for being able to play the piano is in itself harmless, and may keep the girl out of mischief. Further, it gives a great deal of pleasure to her parents and friends, and often to herself as well.

By Richard Ernest Nowell Twopeny, 1857-1915


In 1883 Melbourne had four main auditoriums which were continually busy serving up a host of freshly imported plays, operettas and operas from England and Europe. European imports were in an English translation that had usually been performed successfully in London first. The major theatrical event of 1883 was the first Australian performance of 'The Silver King'. This was an unqualified success. The scenery was described as magnificent with many 'trick' and mechanical changes. So click on a month and check what was happening in Melbourne theatres for the year 1883.

January February
March April
May June
July August
September October
November December


Opera House

'Manola' continued all month. No expense had been spared in the mounting of the piece. The final performance was on January 30th.

Theatre Royal

'Jack and the Beanstalk' continued all month. Of the scenery the Argus said "Mr. Hennings has, as usual, not confined himself to those remarkable fantasies in painting, of which pantomime scenery is generally chiefly composed, but has also again shown in a fine series of panoramic paintings, how well he can make localities or incidents upon which public interest has centred, lend themselves to picturesque effects."


'Lucrezia Borgia' played on Friday the 5th and Saturday the 6th. This was followed by 'Mignon' on the Monday and 'The Bohemian Girl' on the following Thursday. There was a benefit production of 'Faust' on the Friday to farewell Annis Montague. The season continued one further week with productions of 'Maritana', and 'Norma'. owing to financial difficulties the season came to an abrupt conclusion.

On Saturday the 20th Clark and Ryman's Comedy Company along with the Lewton Dearin and Dixon's San Francisco Minstrels opened for a season. Included in the evening's entertainment was a burlesque entitled 'Muldoon's Picnic'.

The Australian said "The company all play their parts as if they believed that nature had never destined them to play any other game, or to engage in any other business than amusing their fellow creatures"

Princess Theatre

'La Mascotte' continued all month.

"Miss Nellie Stewart has the fortune all through the performance to be handsomely dressed, and to her representation of the royal flirt no great exception can be taken. She sang the music incidental to her part with her usual accuracy and finish, and was rewarded by floral tributes." (Argus)


Theatre Royal

'Jack and the Beanstalk' finally drew to a close on Friday February 16th.

On Saturday the 17th the Grand Italian Opera Company commenced a season. They opened with 'The Barber of Seville'. This was followed in quick succession by 'Aida', 'Lucia di Lammermoor', 'Un Ballo in Mashera', 'La Traviata', 'Rigoletto', 'Don Giovanni' and 'Faust'.

There were positive reviews for Signora Boy-Gilbert in 'Lucia' who "controls the sympathies of the audience, and rewards them for their attention by a very perfect performance. There is a repose and grace of manner about this lady which, notwithstanding her almost diminutive proportions, impart to her a sense of dignity." (Australasian)

Opera House

On Thursday February 1st 'Babbe Bleue', by Offenbach, opened with baritone Knight Aston in the title role. [Editor's note: 'Knight Aston' was the stage name of actor Thomas White (Whyte). He appeard in one of the first productions of 'Trial by Jury' at the Opera Comique in London] This played for one week only after which the entire company headed for Adelaide.

On Thursday February 8th the 100 little voices of the Pollard Liliputian Opera Company took over the theatre playing for one week only 'The Chimes of Normandy' and 'La Fille de Madame Angot'.

The revelations as to what almost amounts to the kidnapping of children by the managers of the Pollard Company, are startling and discredible. It seems that neither the children nor their parents in Melbourne had an idea that they were about to proceed to India, and indeed it was expressly stipulated that they were not to leave the Australian Colonies. There are 14 girls and one boy at present with the troupe under these circumstances, and action is likely to be taken by the Victorian Cabinet.
The following extracts from letters received from the children speak for themselves. One of the girls writes:- "I am very unhappy. They treat me very harsh; not like they used to at all. Whatever you do, don't write and tell them what I am telling you, or else they will make me still more miserable." Another says: "You can't be much more sorry about my being away than I am. I have not had one happy day since i left home - nothing but misery and rows." A third writes in a similar strain: "I am very unhappy. I wish to heaven you would get me home, but how you can I don't know. I am not the only one unhappy; all of us wish to get home."

Extracted from the Otago Witness January 4th 1884

On Saturday February 17th Emelie Melville and her company returned. They opened with Offenbach's 'Fatinitza'. Included in the cast was American Gracie Piasted making her first appearance in Australia.

Gracie Piastad had "vocal powers of good average merit. Her voice is light and of medium quality, and by her artistic method of using it she is heard to the fullest advantage, and at the same time gives indisputable proof of training founded upon correct models." (Age)

The operetta continued to play the rest of the month.

Princess Theatre

'La Mascotte' continued its successful season running the entire month of February with no sign of business slowing down.


The mixed bag at the Bijou continued with an ever changing programme. The Irish comedy 'Muldroon's Ball' was one of the new works. This was on February 10th. The whole season finished on Wednesday February 21st. The theatre then went dark for the rest of the month.

MARCH 1883

Opera House

'Fatinitza' was still grabbing audiences.

"The complete manner in which Fatinitza has been placed upon the stage, the promise of other novelties, the far average abilities possessed by the members of the company indiscriminately, and the undiminished vivacity of the prima donna, Miss Emelie Melville, are so many guarantees that the entertainments at the Opera House will during the next few months command a large measure of public support." (Age)

The operetta drew to a close on March 9th. On the 10th the comic opera 'Royal Middy, or the Chess Tournament', by Richard Genée, opened. [Editor's note: this was an English adaptation of 'Der Seekadett'. This had its first American production in 1880.]

The operetta "was witnessed by an audience which filled the building to overflowing, large numbers of people being turned from the doors through lack of room." (Argus)

This played for two weeks only. 'Fatinitza' then returned to end the season which wrapped on the 30th. The company then headed for Sandhurst.

Princess Theatre

'La Mascotte' finally drew to a close on March 2nd. The Royal opera Company mounted the comic opera 'Olivette' by Audran on Saturday March 3rd.

"Miss Agnes Mitchell made her first appearance in the title rôle. This lady is distinguished by a very agreeable-speaking voice, an arch manner, and a general comeliness, which always make her a favourite with the audience. Her method of singing, too, is so thoroughly natural and free from staginess, that it goes a long way towards atoning for her manifest lack of vocal power." (Argus)

'Olivette' finished on Saturday the 17th. The theatre then went dark.

Theatre Royal

The Grand Italian Opera Company season continued.

The Argus reviewing 'Un Ballo' said that leading lady Signora Bulli-Paoli invested "this representation with genuine dignity and picturesque grace. Her voice, though unequal in parts, was under such artistic control as enabled her to begin and end with fair effect an interpretation which taxes the powers of the strongest singers."
The same reviewer commented on the orchestra who, at times, had "a harshness of intonation which may have accounted for by the fact that many of the brass instruments had already done a fatiguing afternoon's work at the Flemington racecourse."

'Don Giovanni' opened on the 10th.

"We hail with pleasure the excellent Signor Grasiosi in his performance of the great part of Leporello as an actor and singer bearing upon him the true stamp of artist. This gentleman's influence pervaded the whole opera, and with the happiest effect. The house took him to its heart with acclamation, and his success was complete and brilliant." (Argus)

'The Marrriage of Figaro' was performed in the middle of the month.

"Signor Viganotti, as Figaro, quite excelled all his previous performances by his volubility and freedom in singing and by his contagious vivacity of manner. He imparted new life to each scene in which he appeared, and assisted greatly in bringing the delightful musical comedy to a conclusion satisfactory to the audience." (Argus)

The Grand Italian Opera Company season drew to a close on March 23rd.

Alfred Dampier opened for a season on March 24th. First up was 'Mankind', by Merritt and Conquest.


The theatre reopened on Saturday March 3rd with the Rosa Towers dramatic company. The company was under the management of her father, Frank Towers. The company had been absent from the Melbourne stage for seven years. First was the English drama 'Fighting Fortune' by Frank Scudamore.

"Miss Towers and her father received a gratifying welcome on their return to the Melbourne stage." (Argus)

On the 10th the company presented 'Maggie's Dream' by Frank Towers himself.

"It is constructed upon the same lines as the once popular "Victorine", and is designed to show the remorse and misery which are likely to follow a deviation from the path of virtue on the part of a handsome woman, who accepts the admiration and attentions of her husband's partner during the absence of the former to India." (Argus)

This was followed on the 17th by 'Round the Clock', a comedy by J.F. M'Ardle.

"If a premium were offered for the production of a three-act farce of superlative stupidity, in which the characters should be impersonations of mental imbecility, the dialogue consistently vapid and pointless, the plot incoherent and scarcely intelligible, and incidents full of childish absurdities, "Round the Clock" would probably distance all competitors." (Argus)

On the 24th there was 'A Waif of the Streets'.

APRIL 1883

Opera House

On Saturday March 31st George Darrell and company took over the theatre. 'The Sunny South' was an Australian first. Written by George Darrell this was produced under the direction of the author and W.J. Holloway. The five act drama was produced

"amidst so many and such frequent manifestations of applause from a large audience that it may be pronounced to have been entirely successful. Most of the characters are Australian, the incidents are Australian - borrowed mostly from those which occurred in connection with the Kelly gang of bushrangers." (Argus)

Newspaper advertisments noted that "this was the most effective and realistic drama ever produced on the colonial stage". The play was a success and ran all month. [Editor's note: Darrell was to perform in this play himself over 1500 times]

George Darrell George Frederick Price (1841–1921) began acting as an amateur in England. He came to Australia with his wife (Fanny Cathcart) in 1865 but spent much time as a professional performer in New Zealand. In Dunedin he joined Fanny Simonsen's opera company. He began his Australian career in Melbourne in 1868 and changed his surname to Darrell. In 1871 Darrell became manager of the Royal Victoria Theatre in Sydney. In 1877 he formed 'Darrell's Dramatic Company for the Production of Australian Plays'. He presented such spectacular works as 'Transported for Life' and 'Back from the Grave'. The company toured Australia, the USA and New Zealand. His wife died in 1880 and he remarried in 1886 to Christine (Cissie) Peachey, a young actress in one of his companies. Darrell continued touring throughout his life. He wrote 55 plays in all the last of which, 'The Land of Gold', was staged in Sydney in 1907. He committed suicide in 1921.

Princess Theatre

On Saturday the 31st of March the Italian Artists company opened a season at this theatre. The company included contralto Margerita Vesosta. They opened with 'La Forza Del Destino'.

"It was an ambitious undertaking for this company to present so great a work. It is to be presumed that they were conscious of their strength, because it is at once to be acknowledged that their performance was in each case most praiseworthy. Concerning the performance of Signora Graziosi we can scarcely speak too highly. It is a mystery why a lady possessing such acceptable talent should have been kept in the background during the recent appearance of the same company at the Theatre Royal." (Argus)

This was followed by two performances of 'Faust' on April 4th and 5th. On the 6th and 7th 'La Sonnambula' featured Alice Rees making her first appearance in Italian opera. With that the season finished and the theatre went dark until late May.


The Towers company continued. On Saturday 31st of March 'Queens Evidence', by Merritt and George Conquest played.

The company is "very capable, and with better opportunities would appear to greater advantage, but with all their endeavours to make a success of the work it was a general feeling that the presentation was a failure." (Argus)

The season continued with a very mixed bag of productions. These included such strange titles as 'Cyril's Success' and 'The Orange Girl'. 'Fighting Fortune' made a return in the final week which concluded on the 26th.

On Saturday the 27th Wybert Reeve and his comedy company took over the theatre for a short season. First was the comedy 'The Passing Regiment', based on a German comedy.

Theatre Royal

'Mankind' proved a success and ran throughout most of April. On Saturday 20th the Bland Holt production of 'Taken From Life', by Henry Pettitt, was mounted. The cast included, besides Dampier and Holt, Blanche Stammers and Annie Taylor.

MAY 1883

Theatre Royal

'T'aken From Life' was taken off on May 17th. On Saturday the 19th 'Henry V' was staged.

"Mr. Rignold is always received with exceptional cordiality in his representation of the character of the King. His advantages of face and figure, of voice and manner, his martial bearing, and his well sustained vigour throughout the rapid action of the piece, are made the most of, and place him at once on the best of terms with the audience." (Argus)

Opera House

'The Sunny Side' finished on May 11th. On the 12th the Melbourne public saw 'The Naked Truth', also by Darrell. This featured a special engagement of Annie Mayor.

Of Annie Mayor the Argus said "The sympathetic tones of her vibrant voice, every inflection and modulation of which seems to be the expression of heartfelt and spontaneous emotion, are heard to singular advantage in the fourth act, throughout the whole of which her performance rose to a high level of excellence."

On Saturday 26th 'Transported For Life', written by Darrell, opened. George Darrell appeared with W.J. Holloway and full cast.

"The piece is exceedingly well mounted and illustrated." (Argus)

The work ran one week. The season drew to a close.


'The Passing Regiment' moved off on Friday May 4th. On the 5th 'Hurricaner' by Bronson Howard was staged. The cast included Wybert Reeve, Maggie Knight, Edwin Palmer and Jenny Watt-Tanner. Also on the programme was the comedietta 'Uncle's Will'.

The Argus said that "these works kept the audience in a state of pleasant merriment for three hours on Saturday evening. Both pieces were elegantly mounted, and were unequivocally successful"

The comedies ran for two weeks. On Saturday the 19th for the first time in Australia the comedy 'For Love or Money', by Andrew Halliday, was performed. [Editor's note: this play was first performed in London in 1869]

"In the part of Major Buncumbe Mr. Wybert Reeve has an opportunity of dramatic portrait-painting, of which he has availed himself with equal skill and success. The dramatist has made Jemima Buncumbe the most engaging personage in the comedy, and Miss Maggie Knight has seized upon its salient features with characteristic intelligence." (Argus)

The play finished on June 1st.

Princess Theatre

The Princess reopened on Thursday May 24th with the Irish comedian Grattan Riggs. 'Grasp, or A Mothers Love' was an Australian first, especially written for Riggs by H.E. Emmett.

"Mr. Grattan Riggs as Mickey Mullens was as humorous as ever, and enjoyed the support of an efficient company." (Argus)

JUNE 1883

Opera House

On Saturday June 2nd Louise Pomeroy and her company returned for a dramatic season presenting some of her favourite characters in rapid succession. 'Heartsease' or more popularly known as 'Camille' opened the programme.

"The audience on Saturday evening was lavish in rewarding Miss Pomeroy with applause, recalls and floral tributes." (Age)

Throughout the month there were performances of 'School for Scandal', 'East Lynne', 'Led Astray', 'Twelfth Night', Miss Multon', 'Romeo and Juliet', 'The Lady of Lyons', 'As You Like It', 'Pique' and several others. None were on stage for more than two nights.

"The acting of Miss Pomeroy can be compared to nothing more aptly than the course described by a well bred, spirited and very shy palfrey. These beautiful animals amble along with admirable grace, sometimes for a considerable distance, in a line almost as straight as any Euclid ever made or imagined when all of a sudden, without any warning or provocation, the capricious quadruped will begin to prance or shy." (Age)


The Wybert Reeve season continued. On June 2nd 'Diplomacy', by Sardou, was staged to a well filled house.

"Mr. Wybert Reeve has bestowed more than usual care in rendering the performance complete in regard to stage appointments. The characters in the play are sustained with exceptional ability, and not only were the principal parts portraited in a skilful manner, but the lesser ones also received full justice." (Age) "For a first night the play was given with commendable smoothness, so that none of the point of the clever dialogue was lost." (Argus)

'Diplomacy' ran for three weeks. On the 23rd 'The Woman in White' held the stage for just one week. Owing to the illness of Miss Watt-Tanner the role of Laura was played by Maggie Knight.

Maggie Knight "has distinguished herself by a display of intelligence, feeling and discrimination which it is pleasant to acknowledge and commend." (Argus) The same reviwer stated that "with (Count Fosco) Mr. Reeve has so closely identified himself that, when we read the novel, we instinctively associate him with it."

This finished on the 29th. On the 30th 'The Squire', by Arthur Wing Pinero, received its first Melbourne performance [Editor's note: this had first been performed in London in December 1881]

Theatre Royal

On June 11th there was the first Melbourne production of 'Romany Rye', by G.R. Sims. "We get into an atmosphere of vice and crime, and are surrounded by ruffians and scoundrels, drunkards and cadgers, such as we meet with in the stories of M. Emile Zola." (Argus) The audiences seemed to love this sort of thing and flocked to the theatre. [Editor's note: This play was first seen in London in June 1882 and New York in November of that year.]

Princess Theatre

'Grasp' lost its grip on June 1st. On the 2nd 'The Irish Detective' was performed. In this Gratton Riggs plays seven characters. "The remarkable versatility displayed by Mr. Grattan Riggs in his assumption of the seven characters he impersonates excelled all his previous efforts." (Age) "He was repeatedly and warmly cheered during the performance." (Argus) The play ran for a few performances ending on the 6th with a benefit. The theatre's doors were then shut again.

JULY 1883


'The Squire' ran just one week.

"Miss Maggie Knight identifies herself with every part she assumes, and the result is that her gipsy girl is one of the best and most consistently played characters in the piece."(Argus)

'The Crushed Tragedian', by Byron, opened on the 7th. This was followed a week later by 'Stolen Kisses'.

"Mr. Reeve has successfully endeavoured to maintain a high standard of theatrical performances and that he has delighted the habitual visitors to the Bijou, by producing a series of excellent plays, well mounted and efficiently presented." (Argus)

The Wybert Reeve season drew to a close on the 20th.

The 21st saw the return of the comedian Mr. Polk and company. For the first time in Australia 'An Arabian Night, or, Haroun Alraschid and his mother-in-law'.

The Argus said that "although constructed of the flimsiest materials, and possessing scarcely anything entitled to be called a plot, while the dialogue, if brisk and occasionally smart, rarely rises above the level of ordinary farce, and the incidents and situations are the stagiest of ols stagers, the piece keeps the audience in good humour from beginning to end."

Theatre Royal

'Romany Rye' concluded its run on July 6th. On the 7th there was another Australian first. This was 'Pluck', by Henry Pettitt and Augustus Harris.

"Like the previous dramatic compilations of the same authors, its literary quality is of the poorest character, and of the 35 personages enumerated in the bills, there is not one who has not figured previously under another name in French or English melodramas." (Argus)

The play ran all month.

Princess Theatre

'The theatre reopened with a season by the Williamson, Garner and Musgrove Comic Opera Company. First was a return of the ever popular 'La Mascotte'.

"After having made an extended and brilliantly successful tour, the Comic Opera Company returns to Melbourne with alteration in its personnel, but in no wise impaired in its effective strength." (Argus)

'Patience' was staged on Monday 16th.

"So far as the general setting of the work was concerned, whether in costume, in scenic mounting, in orchestral support, or in the valuable quality and good drill of the chorus, we may speak in terms of high praise." (Argus)

A week later 'The Pirates of Penzance' was performed.

"It is to be admitted without undue praise that a more perfect performance could not be given in this part of the world, nor is it likely to be met with in any other." (Argus)

Owing to the indisposition of W.H. Woodfield (Frederick) 'Patience' was performed on the Tuesday and for the rest of the week. On Saturday 28th the company presented 'H.M.S. Pinafore' with Knight Aston in the role of Ralph.

The Argus said the Josephine of Miss Nellie Stewart is "a graceful, intelligent, and pleasing performance, only to be improved by the development of a higher sense of humour than is at present possessed by this clever young lady." (Argus)

Opera House

The final night of the Louise Pommeroy season was on July 7th with a production of 'Twelfth Night'.

George Rignold and company then opened for a season. First was 'Lights of London', by G.R. Simms. This was followed on Monday 16th with the comedy-drama 'Alone', by Herman Merivale (1839–1906) and John Palgrave Simpson.

"Mr. Rignold is very effective, except where the temptation to gasp and gabble presents itself, and then he gives way to it without restraint." (Argus)

On the 24th the military drama 'Youth' was produced.

We have to announce, with much regret, the death of Mrs Arthur Garner (known to the public by her professional name of Miss Blanche Stammers) at an early hour on Saturday morning, after an illness of only two days duration. She was taken ill during the performance at the Theatre Royal on Wednesday night, and the symptoms at once assumed a serious character, terminating fatally as above stated, notwithstanding the most assiduous ministrations both medical and otherwise.
Mrs Garner commenced her professional career when a very young child, her father and mother being both connected with the stage, so that before coming to these colonies in 1874, she had a long experience of theatrical life, and had made herself a great favourite in the old country. We believe her first appearance in Victoria was at Sandhurst, and she afterwards joined her husband at the Theatre Royal, where she soon took a leading position, the theatre then being under the management of Messes. Harwood, Stewart and Hennings. subsequently she played both in New South Wales and South Australia, but whenever she came back to Melbourne she was always warmly welcomed. her range of characters was considerable, but her somewhat delicate physique of necessity inclined her to light comedy, in which she achieved many successes.
Mrs. Garner's style of acting was distinguished by much gentleness and refinement. Her long experience made her familiar with every resource of the art to which she had devoted herself, and her gracefulness and her perfect taste in dress would have entitled her to the warmest admiration, even if she had had no other recommendation. But she was fastidiously conscientious, in the interpretation of character, never, under any circumstances, allowing herself to be tempted into any display which was out of the track of legitimate effect.

Extracted from The Argus July 16th 1883


Princess Theatre

On August 4th 'La Fille du Tambour Major' made a welcome return.

"Mr. W.H. Woodfield was an excellent Capitaine Robert, and the music of the part suited his light tenor voice. Miss Fanny Liddiard and Miss Ida Osborne acquitted themselves most creditably. The former sang much better than usual. Miss Osborne was also very successful in giving a pleasing interpretation of the pert vivandière." (Argus)

The operetta was followed on Mondy 13th by 'Les Cloches de Corneville'. The short season concluded on the 17th.

Emelie Melville took over the lease of the theatre for twelve weeks. The company opened on Saturday 18th with 'The Little Duck', by Charles Lecocq (1832-1918). [Editor's note: 'Le Petit Duc' was first produced in Paris in 1878. The first London production in English was in the same year.]

"Miss Melville by means of her natural advantages and her innate sense of artistic fitness in costume, presents such a charming appearance as transcends all her previous achievements." (Argus)

The operetta continued the rest of the month.

Opera House

The George Rignold season drew to a finish with a performance of 'Henry V' on Friday August 3rd.

On Saturday August 4th saw the first performance by Signor Verdi's own Opera Company. The first work was 'Carmen' which played all week.

"We have to confess at the outset of Signor Verdi's new undertaking to a sense of disappointment at the performance on Saturday night. The management has not been niggardly in providing people enough on the stage to give an effective rendering of Bizet's picturesque opera, but over all there was to be observed a want of preparedness amongst the large number who fill the subordinate positions, and in one instance something like incompetency on the part of the leading tenor." (Argus)

This was followed by 'Un Ballo in Maschera' on the 11th and 'Il Trovatore' on the 18th.

"As a whole, the performance was a very successful one, the principals being roughly familiar with their respective roles, but several mistakes were made during the evening, these being mainly due to the want of unanimity among the chorus." (Argus)

On the 21st, 22nd and 23rd there was 'Lucia di Lammermoor'. On Saturday 24th 'Moses in Egypt', by Rossini.

The Argus said that the part of Faraone played by Signor Verdi "was at once made manifest that it could not have been placed in better hands."

Signor Verdi. courtesy of the State Library Victoria, Bio information provided by Bill Butler and Amanda Whitfield. William Cleary Greene, a.k.a. Signor Gugleilmo Verdi, was born in the States in 1837. He moved to Australia around 1878 joining Lyster's Operatic Company. He had a commanding baritone voice and for the next decade he became one of the most respected stage performers in Australia and New Zealand. He even formed his own (short lived) opera company in 1883. He was married twice, firstly to soprano Emelie Melville, and then to Kate Bowden when he moved to London in 1895. In England he taught singing, music and acting. By this stage he had reverted back to his original name (without the 'e') He had six children with Kate. He died in 1915.

Theatre Royal

'Pluck' finished on August 3rd. To end the season 'Taken From Life' played for six nights only. The final performance being on the 10th.

Maggie Moore and J.C. Williamson made a welcome reappearance with their popular 'Struck Oil' on the 11th. This was first produced in Melbourne in 1874 and hadn't been seen for three years. With renewed popularity the play continued throughout the month.


The last performance of 'Arabian Night' was on Friday the 10th. On Saturday 11th the farcical comedy 'The Strategist' was mounted. Billed as the greatest success of the age and the funniest play ever witnessed.

"The intensely comic situations and sparkling dialogue in which the comedy abounds were made the most of, neither company nor audience failing to score every possible point." (Argus)

<'The Strategist' finished on Wednesday 29th. On the 30th and 31st there were performances of 'The American'. So ends the Polk season.


Princess Theatre

The Emelie Melville season continued with 'Fatinitza', by Franz von Suppé, opening on Saturday September 1st.

"The work was mounted with greater attention to detail, both in regard to fresses and accessories, than when it was last brought before a Melbourne audience, and in many respects the performance showed considerable improvement." (Argus)

On Saturday 22nd 'Prince Methusalem', by Strauss, was produced for the first time in Melbourne.

"The work is elaborately constructed (and) we may state at once that the work is presented with such minute attention to detail, such evident good taste in all appointments, and such lavish expenditure in the matter of scenery and costume, as to redound highly to the credit of the spirited and enterprising directress, Miss Emelie Melville, to whose personal supervision all that is successful in the work is entirely due." (Argus)

Opera House

Don Giovanni played on the final nights of the season on September 7th and 8th.

The Montague-Turner Opera Company opened a season on Monday 10th with 'The Bohemian Girl'. Later in the month 'Martha' was produced.


On September 1st the Majeroni Company returned for a season after a long absence. They opened with the society play 'Jealousy'. This was a translation by F. Morrell from Achilles.

"Happily for the art which he so worthily represents, Signor Majeroni has recovered his voice, after an enforced absence from the stage for five years, and it will probably grow in strength and volume, by judicious care and attention, in a climate like this. He comes back to us perfect in his knowledge of the English language, while still retaining something of an Italian accent." (Argus)

On the 22nd 'Living Statue', by Teobaldo Cicconi, was mounted.

"In other hands than those of Signor and Signora Majeroni, the two principal characters would fail to produce the desired impression upon an audience endowed with a keen sense of the more diverting aspects of romantic sentiment." (Argus)

Theatre Royal

Maggie Moore and J.C. Williamson continued their successful 'Struck Oil'. This played through to to the 21th.

Jennie Lee and company returned for another season. On the 22nd they staged 'Jo', the Dicken's story dramatised by John Pringle Burnett.

The Argus provided a gushing review of Jennie in the title role. "The extreme phrases of the character, whether pathetic or ludicrous, are brought out with equal facility, while the absence of all straining after effect gives an air of spontaneity to Jo's uncouth actions and strange phrases."


Theatre Royal

'Jo' finished its run on October 5th. On Saturday the 6th 'The Grasshopper' was staged.

Jennie Lee "enters into the spirit of comedy with zest, and appears to find it a most congenial sphere for her lighter powers...her jollity becomes contagious, and the audience is compelled to laugh out of sympathy with her." (Argus)

The season finished on Thursday the 25th.

There was the first production in Australia of 'The Silver King' on the 27th. This was by Henry Jones and Henry Herman and featured George Sutton Titheradge (1848-1916) making his first appearance after returning from Europe and America. Also in the cast were Annie Mayor, Arthur Garner and Phillip Day.

Phillip Day was the company's newest member of which the Argus said "his humour runs into pathos, and his pathos brightens into humour, and both are blended at times so intimately...Mr. Day's identification of himself with the part was complete and unvarying."

[Editor's note: 'The Silver King' had opened in London the previous November.]

George Sutton Titheradge from the Australasian sketcher, 1885. Courtesy of the State Library of Victoria George Sutton Titheradge (1848-1916) was born at Portsmouth, England. He played several Shakespearian roles in both England and India. He made is first appearance in London in 1877. His first appearance in Australia was in May 1879. The following year he joined the London Comedy Company in Sydney. After touring American he was engaged by J.C. Williamson to play the lead in The Silver King in 1883. He joined the Brough and Boucicault company in 1887 and played with them for ten years. He returned to London in 1898 to join the Mrs Patrick Campbell company which would consequently tour America. He finally returned to Australia in 1908 making just the occasional appearance on stage. He died in Sydney.


On the 6th of October 'Camille' was produced by the Majeronis.

"In the part of Camille Signora Majeroni succeeds in lifting it out of the region of the unreal, in causing you to overlook its cheap and tawdry morality and morbid sentimentality, and in vesting it with so much grace and beauty as to make you insensible to the radical defects of (the) drama." (Argus)

The last night was Friday 19th. This was followed by 'A Prodigal Son' which had its first Melbourne performance on the 20th. [Editor's note: according to newspapers this play was based on 'Prosa e Poesia' (?) by Paolo Ferrari [1822-1889]]

"The author does not shrink from portraying some of the darker aspects of human life and character." (Argus)

The play ran for one week and on the 27th the drama 'La Femme du Peuple' (The Woman of the People) was produced.

"This cleverly-written adaptation from the original French provides situations capable of being wrought up to a high pitch of excellence. The dialogue is pointed, and largely free from sermonising into which the action of the first part of the drama might have led the adaptor." (Argus)

Opera House

On Tuesday 2nd October 'Norma' was produced followed the next evening by 'The Bohemian Girl'. 'The Rose of Castile' and "Faust' played the final two nights of the season.

On Saturday the 6th the theatre's Opera Bouffe Company opened a season that would take them to Christmas. They opened with the first production in Melbourne of Bucalossi's operetta 'Manteaux Noirs' (Black Cloaks). [Editor's note: this operetta was probably loosely based on 'Giralda' by Eugène Scribe and Adolphe Adam with new music by Procida Bucalossi in an English version by Harry Paulton and W. Park. This version was originally played in London in 1882.]

"Amongst the performers who gave their best talents to the interpretation of this work, we must mention first the name of Miss Annette Ivanova, who played the part of Girola. This lady's welcome was most cordial when she first appeared on the scene, and she gained increased favour as the play went on. She displayed charming freshness and fine power of voice throughout the whole of a performance in which she had to bear a most onerous part." (Argus)

The cast also included T.B. Appleby, Signor Verdi, Josephine Deakin and Knight Aston. The operetta played the rest of the month.

Princess Theatre

'The Grand Duchess' ran from the 11th to the 19th of October. This was followed by 'La Belle Helène' on the 20th.

"In this performance Miss Melville takes first place in the order of merit. Her charming appearance and graceful bearing are not Miss Melville's chief attractions - her admirable intelligence, which is evinced in many ways, is best of all. Miss Melville, in all that she does, conveys to our mind a feeling that she is conscious of superior intelligence, but that she uses this power only in the interests of her art. Her performance throughout, both as actress and singer, gave unbounded satisfaction to all who saw and heard her." (Argus)


Princess Theatre

'La Belle Helène' continued to win audiences but the Emelie Melville season finally drew to a close on November 16th.

On November 17th there was the first appearance in Australia of George Leitch, C. H. Fenton, H.W. Bennett and Amy Crawford. These artists had all been engaged by Arthur Garner in England. Their first production was 'Coming Home, or Sithors to Grind', written by George Leitch, but really a vague adaptation of Dickens's 'Cricket on the Hearth'.

The play "…is about as silly a piece of stage fiction and dramatic patchwork as we have ever had the misfortune to sit out - and we have had considerable experience in that way. Nevertheless, its silliness seemed to be greatly enjoyed by a section of the audience." (Argus)

The nightly receipts averaged no more than £10. After a few performances shorter works were added to the evenings programme but even these double bills couldn't save the work and it drew to a close on December 6th.


The Majeroni company season drew finally to a close with 'East Lynne' on November 3rd. This played six performances. The final week saw alternate performances of 'Jealousy' and 'The Woman of the People'. The final performance of the season on the 16th saw a double bill 'The Two Servants' and 'A Kiss'.

This featured the debût of Master Majeroni who according to the press "seems to inherit the bright intelligence of his parents."

On November the 17th Grattan Riggs returned for a series of Irish dramas. 'The Shaughraun', by Dion Boucicault, played for two weeks.

Opera House

On Saturday November the 17th 'Boccaccio', by Suppe, opened.

"The completeness of the appointments, the beauty of the scenery painted by Mr. Habbe, and the fine orchestral effects produced by the band under the baton of Mr Charles Van Ghele, were all the subject of approving comment." (Argus)

[Editor's note: during this run the company's tenor, Knight Aston, was dismissed. Aston then sued Dunning for breach of contact. A new tenor took his role in 'Boccaccio' and was billed as being from 'the leading theatres'. However, this gentleman turned out to be the chorus master and according to reviewers his performance was "anything but equal to that of his predecessor."] 'Boccaccio' played until December 6th.

Theatre Royal

'The Silver King' continued all month to successful houses.

"Mr Titheradge, who met with an enthusiastic reception from the audience, has evidently made a careful study of the character of Wilfred Denver, and has achieved in it a brilliant success." (Argus)
Reviews for the drama were gushing. "There is a noticeable avoidance of any attempt to appeal to a taste of morbid sensationalism" (Daily Telegraph)


Theatre Royal

'The Silver King' was so successful it played right through until Christmas.

"Mr Titheradge is greatly admired in the title role, Miss Annie Major is good as the devoted wife, and Mr Garner produces an excellent impression as the gentlemanly villain Captain Skinner." (Otago Witness)

On boxing day the annual pantomime opened. This year it was 'Aladdin, or Harlequin' written by Robert Reece. The large cast included Maggie Moore (making her first appearance in pantomime), Phillip Day, Harry Leston, Pattie Brown, George Leitch and Ida Osborne.

"The transformation scene was well conceived, and the mechanical effects in connection with it were excellently managed, not a single hitch being noticeable, which is a somewhat rare event in a first performance. The ballet and marches were excellent, and the dresses were very tasteful, whilst the limelight effects were well managed." (Age)

Maggie Moore Maggie Moore (1851-1926) was born Margaret Virginia Sullivan in San Francisco. She left school in order to go on the stage. She first appeared at the Olympic Theatre, San Francisco, taking the stage name Maggie Moore. In the early part of 1872 the actor J.C. Williamson met Maggie and for the next twenty years the two both rose to theatrical fame. They were married in 1873. The couple divorced in 1899. Maggie married Harry Roberts, another actor, in 1902; their marriage lasted until his death in 1923. Maggie was a national favourite. She was extremely versatile, had a fine voice, a perfect sense of comedy, skilled at dancing and had a charming personality.

Princess Theatre

On December the 7th George Leitch and company played 'Ruth's Romance' with the first appearance of Amelia Herbert in the title role.

Advertisements for the theatre's boxing day production paid great mention that the theatre would be illuminated by electricity. The production was the first Australian performance of 'Impulse' by R.S. Stephenson. This play was first produced in London in 1882. The cast featured Jenny Watt-Tanner, Annie Major, Arthur Garner and G.S. Titheradge.

Titheradge "is to be complimented, indeed, upon what was from beginning to end an example of high-class acting; and with having offered to the public a dramatic portrait as masterly in design as it was finished in execution." (Argus)

[Editor's note: In June Titheradge was divorced for adultery and desertion; his wife was given custody of their three children. He married again in 1884]

Opera House

On Saturday December 7th 'Mariola', by Lecocq, was staged. The translation was by H.B. Farnie.

The Argus praised Thomas B. Appleby. "The copious lines which Mr. H.B. Farnie has written for this most loquacious part were never so pithy as when uttered by this enlightened comedian in sententious phrases, most comically and unvoluntarily accentuated with a suspicion of northern burr."

The final performance was on Monday December 24th.

On Boxing Day 'Rip Van Winkle' opened. The music was by Planquette with an English translation by H.B. Farnie. The large cast included Howard Vernon, R.W. Cary, Annette Ivanova and the popular Thomas B. Appleby.

"The piece is beautifully costumed and generally well mounted. Signs of insufficient rehearsal were frequently observed throughout the evening, both among the performers and those that worked the stage machinery." (Argus)


Grantan Riggs continued his season of Irish dramas. 'Shin Fane' played on December 1st. On the 8th the drama 'The Wanderer' featured author and actor Augustus Grover making his first appearance on the Melbourne stage.

"(He) possess a good stage figure and presence, and a strong resonant voice, which is capable of considerable variety in its inflections and modulations." (Argus)

On Thursday the 13th Augustus Grover appeared in 'The Colleen Bawn' and the season finished on Saturday 15th.

On Boxing day the pantomime 'Ali Baba, or The Forty Thieves' was mounted. This featured Mrs G.B.W. Lewis making a reappearance after a retirement of three years.

"The scenery was very good, and the 'settings' - as they are known by their stage name - were very effective. There was quite an army on the stage at various times, and the directress deserves credit for the manner in which she has trained the members of her company." (Argus)

Lyceum Theatre

Stanley and Darbyshire's Juvenile Opera and Pantomime Company opened a season on Wednesday December 26th. The opening work was 'The Pirates of Penzance' with a cast that included Dolly Inman as Major General Stanley, Amy Childs as Frederick and Flora Graupner as Ruth. Some of these artists would appear in later years with other adult companies. As was common with pantomimes the evenings entertainment was topped off with a glorious harlequinade.

"(The little ladies) are all reposeful in deportment, and speak the dialogue trippingly on the tongue, even though lacking the full tones of voice which give it due effect." (Argus)

Theatre in Melbourne 1882

Theatre in Melbourne 1884