Original Australian Cast
Saturday, July 16th, 1887
Initial run: 29 performances

King Hildebrand

Mr. Howard Vernon

Hilarion

Mr. Leumane

Cyril

Mr. W. H. Woodfield

Florian

Mr. F. Frederici

King Gama

Mr. William Elton

Arac

H. Benham

Princess Ida

Miss Colbourne Barber

Lady Blanche

Miss Alice Barnett

Lady Physche

Miss Aggie Kelton

Melissa

Miss Ida Osborne

REVIEW OF THE AUSTRALIAN PREMIERE OF 'PRINCESS IDA'

After an absence from Melbourne of four months, Messrs. Williamson, Garner and Musgrove's Comic Opera Company returned to their old locale, the Princess's Theatre, on Saturday evening, and gave the first performance of a new operatic season. The announcement of a new opera by Mr. W.S. Gilbert and Sir Arthur Sullivan attracted, as what might have been expected, an audience which filled the whole theatre to its utmost capacity. Although never before performed in Melbourne, Princess Ida is not the latest production of the author and composer. It was brought out in London in 1884, before the Mikado, and in it Mr. H. Bracy, well known here, sustained the leading tenor rôle.

Princess Ida is described by Mr. Gilbert as being "a respectful per-version" of the laureate's well known poem, The Princess. Mr. Gilbert first tried it out as a drama, with incidental music, performed more than 10 years since at one of the London West End theatres, and much of the dialogue remains the same as then. His pungent satire is everywhere perceptible in the treatment of the subject, the incidents and characters being admirably adapted to his humorous and epigrammatic style.

(There follows a description of the opera's plot.)

The music is easily recognisable as that of Sir Arthur Sullivan, for, among his operas, a certain family likeness is observable. The concerted numbers are all extremely clever, one in particular, a trio for male voices, with chorus, occuring in the first act, being strikingly original and effective.

Miss Colbourne-Baber, who represented Princess Ida, appeared on this occasion for the first time in connection with this company. She delivered her dialogue distinctly, and gave an intelligent rendering of the music, in the latter part of which, however, her powers were rather overstrained. Miss Baber's study of the character is lacking in individuality, and in her interpretation of it she appears not to have grasped the intention of the author. Miss Alice Barnett made an imposing Lady Blanche, a part into which she infused much humor, the music also being well interpreted.

Mr Leumane, who made his Melbourne appearance as Prince Hilarion, has a tenor voice of good power and compass, which he uses in an effective manner, and received an encore for his first song, 'Twenty Years Ago'.

Mr Federici also made his first appearance as Florian, proving himself a capable representative of the part, showing familiarity with stage business. He posses a resonant baritone voice, of which he made skilful use.

Mr Howard Vernon had not in King Hildebrand a character calculated to display his best powers, and most of the music allotted to him is too low for his voice. Mr Elton gave an excellent representation of the deformed and malicious King Gama.

The part of Cyril found a congenial interpreter in Mr. Woodfield, to whom is allotted one of the prettiest songs in the opera, sung so well as to be redemanded. Mr. Woodfield should reconsider his pronunciation of the name Lalage, which is in three syllables, not two. Miss Kelton, also, may be reminded that polemist is accentuated on the second syllable.

Messes. Brennir, Benham and Grundy represented the three sons of Gama with considerable success, the trio in the first act being most effectively rendered, and the characters sustained throughout. A genuine piece of musical humor is introduced in the third act by the composer, in the shape of a song for Arac (Mr. Benham) with chorus, written in Handelian form, containing all the traits of that master's style, and having a most mirth provoking effect in association with the words. The performance of it was somewhat marred by the inaccuracy of the vocalist in the ninth bar from the commencement of the song, and the same mistake occurred in the second and third verses. The smaller parts were represented in a satisfactory manner.

The scenery, painted by Mr. Brunton, is excellent, a fine effect of perspective being obtained in the first act. The opera has been placed on the stage with every attention to detail; the costumes are magnificent and all the appointments artistic. Princess Ida will be repeated this evening.

Melbourne Age. Monday, July 18th, 1887.

A "first night" of a new opera by Gilbert and Sullivan has come to be looked upon as one of those pleasures in which all can participate without regret for time wasted. Last Saturday night saw the elegant and commodious new Princess's Theatre crowded in every part. His Excellency the Govenor of Victoria, accompanied by His Excellency Lord Carrington, the Govenor of New South Wales, with a numerous suite of gentlemen, were present in the central box, and were received with the National Anthem, the performance of which was marked by the warmly-expressed approval of the whole house.

"The Princess Ida", which was played here for the first time on Saturday night, is called by its composers, Gilbert and Sullivan, "a respectful perversion of Tennyson's 'Princess.'" It was originally produced at the Savoy Theatre, London, on the 5th of January, 1884, and in the cast it is not without interest to notice that the names of Mr. Henry Bracy and Miss Kate Chard appeared as representing Hilarion and Lady Psyche respectively. The work itself is on a larger scale than the other operas by Gilbert and Sullivan which have previously played here. They were all two-act pieces - this is in three acts. It is unnecessary to describe the plot in close detail, because it follows very closely the action so charmingly narrated in the poem.

King Hildebrand, represented by Mr. Howard Vernon, is a powerful monarch, both honourable and wily, and very splendid in appearance, being clad in a velvet green body coat and resplendent gold armour. He utters Gilbertian wit, with good emphasis, in Shakespearian blank verse, which rises into "patter-song" under the exigencies of circumstance. King Gama, represented by Mr. William Elton, is a more wonderful personage. He is a compound of Richard III, of Apemantus, and of Louis XI. He has an irritating chuckle, a celebrated sneer, an entertaining snigger, and a fascinating leer. He is proud of himself, and "can't think why" he is detested of all other people. In a crooked and misshapen body he has a direct and poisonous wit which stabs insidiously and even through the strongest armour. He is altogether a portentous person. In the midst of changeful scenes not too numerous considering the value to the play, his characteristics harden and crystallise, and break into song expressive of a strong unlovely nature untempered by any trait of human sympathy - a not unreal person, though having a highly comic aspect.

Prince Hilarion, the son of King Hildebrand, is played by Mr. Leumane, a new-comer to Melbourne, an experienced actor and a good singer, with tenor voice extending in effective range to B flat. The rôle itself, like that of all betrothed princes and lovers on the stage, calls only for the display of conventional young manliness and heroism as far as the first act is concerned. In the second there is opportunity for the exhibition of good comedy.

Mr. W.H. Woodfield filled the part of Cyril, a frank and most engaging character, another Falconbridge or Mercutio, of great value to the piece, enliving it with good voice and well-practised manner to a highly appreciable degree.

Mr. F. Federici, who played the part of Florian, is another new arrival in Melbourne, and a distinct gain to the stage. He posses a good stage appearance and an easy manner which betokens experience. His voice is one of great resonance, which he has under easy control, and which, amongst men's voices, would be classed with the second tenors in a male quartet. Messrs. Benham, Grundy, and Brennir, as the sons of King Gama, play parts which bring them into more than usual prominence, and make a very strong point in the pictorial aspect of the play.

The second act reveals the Princess Ida, the Lady Blanche, the Lady Psyche, and all the beautiful girl graduates. Here the humorous fancy and the tuneful genius of the joint authors of the play find splendid opportunity for display.

The Princess Ida is represented by Miss Colbourne-Baber, a young lady already known to the operatic stage in Melbourne, and who has many qualifications to do justice to this important rôle. In a few more performances her gifts and acquirements will probably be put to their highest uses. she has a clear perception of the humour of the lines she has to utter, and a fine full voice to give point to her spoken utterances. Her singing voice is of good soprano quality, and in its natural condition more than equal to all demands made upon it by the composer's musical text. She should attempt no high vocal flights nor other fanciful improvements on the music, but sing every note exactly as it is written and marked on the score. If it were possible that Miss Baber could acquire a more graceful way of moving her arms, and generally more of freedom and meaning in her gesticulations, it would greatly improve her performance.

Miss Alice Barnett, Miss Aggie Kelton, and Miss Ida Osborne were in every way commendable exponents of the lesser parts allotted to them. The whole of this act is full of beauty, and rarely have so many encores been demanded by a well-pleased audience; but it must be pointed out to the representatives of Hilarion, Cyril, and Florian that the scene of their disguise as girls is one which not only admits of but demands the display of high comedy acting. The most distant approach of clowning is not only an injustice to the literary author of the work, but an affront to an intelligent and decorous audience. This scene will act of itself in the most diverting manner if the ladies and gentlemen engaged in it will act as naturally as they can.

The third act brings before the spectator a spectacle of splendor. The whole width of the stage is thrown open, terraced battlements and splendid towers fill the background, the Princess and all her ladies appear encased in glittering silver, and the throb and hum of martial music fills the air. The fortune of war favours King Hildebrand and Hilarion, and then the Princess is convinced that it is her duty to fulfil her vow of betrothal. She and Hilarion, and presumably all the rest, are united and live happily ever after, and so ends one of the most pleasing and elegant musical plays that have been witnessed in this city.

The music is distinguished for the grace that adorns "Patience" and "Iolanthe", from the same hands. The scenery is a veritable delight to the eye, and does honour to Mr. John Brunton and the lavish liberality of the management in mounting the piece deserves public recognition. Mr. Harrison, the musical director, and Mr. J. Wallace stage manager, have in each case done well. "Princess Ida" is announced for constant repetition.

Argus. Monday, July 18th, 1887.

BURGLARIES IN THE CITY

The shop of Mrs. Alice Meissner, tobacconist, 133 Bourke-street east, was broken into on Thursday night, between the hours of 11pm and 6am, and tobacco and other articles estimated to be worth £200 stolen. Entrance was effected to the place by climbing up a lamp-post, and thence over a high fence into the yard at the rear of the premises. Two windows were then forced and one door before the shop was reached. The full extent of the loss has not yet been discovered, but five small boxes of tobacco and one large one are missing, and a quantity of valuable pipes. A hole was made in the fence, in order to take the goods away. Mrs. Meissner and family sleep on the premises, and Mrs. Meissner was awakened by a noise about 3am, but not hearing a recurrence of it took no steps to discover what had caused it. The premises have been entered by burglars several times before.

A daring attempt to rob the premises of Mr. William Henry Graham, produce merchant, 46 Elizabeth-street, was made on Thursday evening. About 7 o'clock all the members of Mr. Graham's family went out, leaving him alone in the place. He sat in a room at the back, and it was probably concluded that there was no one left in the place. Mr. Graham had not been long alone when he heard a noise in the front part of the house, and he got there in time to see two men rush on to the balcony, jump down to the street and run away. One of the men left his hat behind him and on the pavement, near the verandah, where they had thrown it in their haste, Mr. Graham found his gold watch, which was smashed by the fall. The robbers had climbed up the posts of the verandah to the balcony, and then forced open the window, but the watch was the property they had secured before they were discovered.

Argus. Saturday July 16th, 1887.

FLOOD ON THE MURRAY

(BY TELEGRAPH FROM OUR CORRESPONDENT)

The floods in this district show no signs of abating. The reports to hand from Tocumwal state that the river Murray rose to-day to 16ft. 7in. above the summer level, and that it is still rising. It will probably attain its maximum to-day. The river banks at Tocumwal are under water, and on this side the country is submerged for over a mile. The river has not attained such a height for many years. No Numurkah mails have been received in Tocumwal since last Saturday. The saw-mill of Messrs. Tuck Bros, Cobram, has not been working this week, on account of the plant being inundated. It is situated some distance back from the Murray, and occupies an eminence in what is known as the Red Gum Swamp. Messrs. Buscombe and Grant, the contractors for the new railway line from Numurkah to Nathalia, cannot go on with any bridge work or fencing in consequence of the impossibility of carting the stuff on the ground from where it is lying ready for removal. The men, however, have enough earthwork to do to keep them going for a fortnight, after which they will have to knock off if the roads so not improve.

Argus. Saturday July 16th, 1887.

ARREST OF AN ALLEGED BEGGING IMPOSOR

Detective-sergeant E. O'Donnell yesterday arrested a man named Herbert T. Hardwicke, on a warrant charging him with imposing upon William Conrad Dihm by false representations in writing. Mr. Dilm, who is manager for his father, a draper, in Swanston street, had given 10s. to a woman who represented herself as the wife of Hardwicke, and presented a letter stating that he was dying of consumption, and in destitute circumstances. Mr. Dihm subsequently visited the house where Hardwicke lives, and being shown into a room where there was no furniture, believed the story of destitution, and gave the woman £1. From information received he now regards Hardwicke as an impostor, who lives by writing begging letters to clergymen and others. It is also stated that he has imposed upon the Salvation Army, and that the woman he lives with is not his wife.

Argus. Saturday July 16th, 1887.

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