Original New Zealand Cast
Friday, March 18th, 1887

The Lord Chancellor

Mr. Howard Vernon

The Earl of Mountararat

Mr. F. Ridadale

The Earl Tolloller

Mr. W. H. Woodfield

Private Willis

Mr. T. Grundy

Strephon

Mr. Albert Brennier

The Queen of the Fairies

Miss Alice Barnett

Iolanthe

Miss Ida Osborne

Phyllis

Miss Elsa May

REVIEW OF THE NEW ZEALAND PREMIERE OF 'IOLANTHE'

"The Mikado" gave place last night to "Iolanthe", an opera which, although it was written more than four years ago, is now produced in New Zealand for the first time. In the title of the work Mr. Gilbert and Sir Arthur (then Dr) Sullivan abandoned the lucky P's that had served them so well in "Pinafore", "the Pirates" and "Patience", but their luck, strange to say, did not go with the P's - a useful lesson against superstition. "Iolanthe" turned out a brilliant success in London - in fact an embryo peer of the realm was with difficulty restrained from marrying one of the leading fairies - and judging from last night's reception its success in Dunedin will be proportionately great.

It is not easy to compare "Iolanthe" with "The Mikado", and the attempt would altogether be unprofitable. The hand of Mr. W. S. Gilbert is, of course, unmistakable in both works, but although his method may be the same as always, it must be admitted that he seeks widely different themes. From Arcadia to Japan is a long step; but whatever the scene, Mr. Gilbert is at home in it, and whatever the situation, it is never so firmly grounded but that he can turn it upside down. The mise en scene of "Iolanthe" offers better opportunities perhaps than any other of Gilbertian operas. Arcady is always charming, but it is not often nowadays that we are even permitted to roam with Phyllis o'er the lea even in imagination. Her pipe is now a good deal out of tune, and things generally in Arcadia have grown commonplace, and run considerably to rust. But Mr. Gilbert has restored them to excellent preservation - for an hour. Moreover, he has enriched Arcady by importations quite unknown to it aforetime. At his invitation the members of the House of Lords stroll down there, evidently direct from the Presence, with their robes, coronets, and orders. And by a kindly touch of magic the glade is alive also with fairies, tripping daintily in thier clinging robes, and equipped with gossamer wings and glittering wands.

Most of us have a sneaking regard for fairies - a regard rather strengthened by the limited acquaintance upon either side, and it will be understood that Mr. Gilbert's Arcadia is vastly improved by their presence. Anything graceful and pleasant to the senses is welcome as a matter of course in Arcadia. That accounts for the cordial reception of Iolanthe, Celia, and their companions, but with respect to the peers the case is a little different. They, even with mantles and orders thrown in, are scarely even picturesque in Arcadia, but they are novel and therefore very interesting. Moreover, in the second act they are translated with every success to Place Yard, Westminster, where they re distinctly in place and their friends the fairies are not. Matters are thus equalised. In the plot which Mr. Gilbert has woven out of his incongruous materials a group of fairies are discovered in an Arcadian glade, lamenting the banishment a quarter of a century back of the most valued of their companions - Iolanthe.

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

Too little has been said about Sir Arthur Sullivan's music, and in a limited space it is not possible to do it full justice. In tunes it is certainly poorer than any of this series of operas we have yet heard. That is to say, it contains fewer cheap melodies that will be caught at once and whistled at every street corner. But as regards spontaneity humour, and grace of expression the composer has surpassed his usual excellence. The standard is higher and more evenly maintained than any of his comic operas written before or since. There ar some wonderfully pretty ballads, several numbers brightly written and rendered exceptionally funny by the manner of their singing and a wealth of concerted music of a character that probably no living composer of comic opera could equal. Mr. Vernon's patter song has most clever and peculiar orchestral accompaniment, and all the fairy music is pretty.

Miss Elsa May looks far more charming as Phyllis than she could possibly do as Yum-Yum, and she sings and acts with equal grace.

Miss Barnett showed us precisely how she played the Fairy Queen on the the first production of this opera in London, and an exceedingly good way it is. Her impersonation was one of the greatest successes of the evening, although all the principals were successful, as was evidenced by the hearty recall at the close of the first act.

Misses Aggie Kelton, Ada Walker, and Bella Stewart made a delightful trio of leading fairies, and Miss Ida Osborne is entitled to warm praise for her performance of Iolanthe. She sang well, and was immistakably tendered but refused an encore for her ballad "He loves", in the second act.

Miss Elsa May, Miss Barnett, and Mr. Vernon, it may be mentioned, were required to respond to several encores during the evening, and the compliment was in every case well deserved. Nothing could be more refinedly humourous than Mr. Vernon's Lord Chancellor. He sped the judicial accent in a style that scarely seemed for the moment to be burlesque. His conscientious gravity was alternated, however, with a wild friskiness that would have appalled Chancery Lane. His excruciating glance supplied the funny element in the trio "If you go in". This dancing refrain, bye-the-bye, coming so closely upon the heels of a most exhausting patter song, is sufficient to knock an ordinary artist out of time.

Mr Brennir might perhaps have tripped it more gaily as Strephon, but we have it upon authority of the libretto that he is inclining to stoutness, although he did not look it last night. He sang well, especially in the duet with Miss may (encored) "If we are weak enough to tarry." Pretty as this was though, it could scarely equal Miss Alice Barnett's song "Oh foolish fay", in which occurs that prophetic and pathetic reference to Captain Shaw.

A couple of typically respectable young noblemen were Messrs Ridsdale and Woodfield as Lords Mountararat and Tolloller, and Mr Grundy acted and sang well in the small part of Private Willis.

Too much praise cannot well be accorded the management for the mounting of the opera, and a successful run is evidently assured.

Otago Daily Times. Saturday March 19th, 1887.

STREET LIGHTING

Interesting experiments are being made in the city with a somewhat remarkable apparatus of local production for lighting and extinguishing street lamps. The corporation are making a test with a view to the adoption of the system should the present experiments be found thoroughly satisfactory. Of this there would appear to be little doubt, in view of the success which has attended the use of the apparatus in connection with several city lamps during the past three weeks. The system has been found to be very effective, and though its recent its recent use appears to have passed unnoticed, the public will have the opportunity during several subsequent evenings of judging its merits. Of the lamps which have been fitted with the apparatus, seven are on the left-hand side of High street, being the whole of the lamps on that side of the street. Lamps at the corner of Water and Princess streets, Dundas and Great King streets, and opposite the Sussex and Carroll's hotels in George street, have also been fitted up. Ample opportunities will thus be afforded the public of seeing how this new invention works. Last night the operation of lighting the row of lamps in High street was very successfully performed. Most of the other lamps had been hand-lit when the experimental lamps simultaneously flared up.

Otago Daily Times. Tuesday March 15th, 1887.

THEATRICAL

NOTES BY PASQUIN

"The Mikado" is the biggest of recent successes in Dunedin, therefore the face of Mr. R.S. Smythe beams nightly more glorious. On the first night the house was reported full, and on each secceeding night it looked from my own personal observation fuller. And all this without a "vice-regal command night." The Marquis and Marchioness of Huntly graced a box on Monday evening, but his excellency has not yet been bidden to the feast. The Management possibly are reserving him for "Iolanthe." For in the full tide of success the announcement appears that "The Mikado" will be withdrawn on Thursday to make room for "The Peer and the Peri." The old managerial precept never to take off a piece that is drawing must, it seems, be disregarded under the conditions of long tours and short seasons.
The atate of matters is shortly this: Messes Williamson, Garner, and Musgrove (believing in the country, if our foreign creditors do not), have at present two first-class combinations touring the colony. They are losing money hand over fist up North with as excellent a comedy company as we need wish to see, and they are sending an opera company after it to sweep up the losses, convert them into gains, and bring the account out balanced. Where other managers might have been tempted to wash their hands of the whole New Zealand business, the triumvirate quietly send a second expedition to rectify matters.

Otago Witness. Friday March 18th, 1887.

ad

Back to the main review listings Return to 'Down under in the 19th Century'