Original New Zealand Cast
Wednesday, March 9th, 1887

The Mikado

Mr. Albert Brennik


Mr. W.H. Woodfield


Mr. Howard Vernon


Mr. Benhan


Mr. T. Grundy


Miss Elsa May


Miss Ida Osborne


Miss Aggie Kelton


Miss Alice Barnett


There was a brilliant audience at the Princess Theatre last night, when Messers Williamson, Garner, and Musgrove's Royal Comic Opera Company produced for the first time in New Zealand "The Mikado", the latest product of the Gilbert-cum-Sullivan collaboration. Seeing the extraordinary success that has attended, and continued to attend, these works, it is a little surprising to see people anxiously watching and waiting for composer and librettist to take a new departure. Why should they do anything of the kind when in their case the ordinary law seems to be reversed and the supply creates the demand? There are no demands for Mr. Gilbert's "quaint topsy-turveydoms" until he himself created it by manufacturing the article, and as long as there is an enthusiastic market for his wares, so long is it reasonable to suppose that he will continue to turn them out. No substantial reason has appeared - yet, at anyrate - that should induce him to abandon what are really opera-bouffe libretti and devote his attention to what may be called, for wast of a better designation, legitimate comic opera.

"The Mikado" is a work built upon precisely the same pattern as its predecessors - full of the same smart, pungent sallies, brimming over with a wit that stings rather than tickles into mirth. The scene is laid in Japan, and the whole details of the scenario are elaborately designed to support this illusion; but it is a faint illusion after all said and easily penetrated. Nothing could be more purely farcical and more purely English. The jokes and lyrics are English in their application, and it is the quaint cynicism of the English humourist that is constantly before the audience from the rise to the fall of the curtain. It is distinctly the old Gilbertian material overhauled.

(There follows a lengthy description of the Opera)

This plot is sufficiently extravagant, and the dialogue contains enough inverted philosophy to fully sustain Mr. Gilbert's reputation. The company deserve every praise for the most complete and well ordered performance, considered both vocally and dramatically. The charming music was excellently sung by the principals and chorus, and encores, numerous as they were, would have still been more frequent had it not been for the manifest desire on the part of the audience to push along to the next development of the piece, in which they were thoroughly interested.

The ladies are severely handicapped by costumes singularly ill-adapted to the display of feminine charms, but they managed to attract notwithstanding.

Miss Elsa May not only sang particularly well but acted with all the vivacity and winsomeness that made her a favourite here years ago.

Miss Alice Barnett, a stranger in the colonies, made a single success in the not very grateful role of Katisha, a lady whose charms lie chiefly in her heel and her right elbow and who for external attraction depends upon ugliness and stormy ferocity. Miss Barnett made up well for the part, and her acted showed uncommon dramatic ability. She made an artistic use of a pleasant although not a powerful voice.

Miss Ida Osborne, as Pitti-Sing, was arch and did well with her part, and Miss Aggie Kelton was good in the subordinate role of Peep Bo. These young ladies participated in the encore for the trio "Three little maids from school," certainly one of the quaintest and prettiest numbers in the opera.

Mr. Howard Vernon, the Lord High Executioner (Ko-Ko), received of course a perfect ovation in memory of other days, and was not long in earning warm recognition for his present impersonation. It is as full of humour as the part will admit, and Mr. Vernon, needless to say, specially shines in his treatment of those lyrics which depend much upon enunciation and bye-play for their effect. The verbal pleasantries they contain would be mixed otherwise, and probably for this very reason the composer introduces melodies of the "patter" kind, and refrains largely from cantabile phrases of "linked sweetness long drawn out". Mr. Vernon's perculiar cast of humour was best shown in the duet with Nanki-Poo, "The flowers that bloom in the Spring" - the funniest number in the opera, twice recalled - and the graphic touches he imparted to the love song of the little tomtit.

Mr. Woodfield's voice seems to have rather improved than otherwise since his last appearance here. He sang the tenor music of Nanki-Poo remarkably well, and acted also very appropriately.

Mr. Benham, as Pooh-Bah, was a marvel of pompous stolidity, and he too sang his music acceptably; while Mr. Grundy, as Pish-Tush, did useful service in several bits of concerted music.

Particular numbers in this opera which will become popular might be instanced at some length - in fact the whole work is so musically captivating that its entire score will probably become as familiar as that of "Patience" ere long. But space will not allow the enumeration of all these gems in the present notice. There is, however, a singularly beautiful madrigal written in Sullivan's best style, a charming contralto song, "Hearts do not break," and a wonderfully pretty duet between Yum-Yum and Nanki-Poo "Were I not to Ko-Ko plighted."

The two scenes - a palace courtyard and a garden were admirable examples of stagecraft and a work of cordial praise is due to the very full orchestra under Mr. Harrison. "The Mikado" will keep the boards, and will doubtless draw crowded houses, until further notice.

Otago Daily Times. Thursday, March 10th, 1887.


Last evening about half-past seven Mr. James Briggs, first mate of the brigantine Myrtle, which was lying on the Western side of the Queen street Wharf, about 150 yards past the toll house, was going on board his vessel, when he missed his footing and fell into the water between his vessel and the piles of the wharf. Constable Luke McDonnell, of the water police, who was on duty, heard the splash, and ran to the spot whence it proceeded, and there observed Briggs struggling in the water. He at once jumped into his assistance, and, grasping hold of Brigg's coat, held him above the water, at the same time calling for help. A young man named Percy O'Brien, who resides at the Prince Arthur Hotel, responded to his call, and, seeing that Briggs was more than McDonnell could comfortably support in the water, also pluckily plunged into the harbour and assisted him. Sergeant Clarke and some others then appeared, and by their aid Briggs and his two rescuers were got safely on terra firma. The former was taken on board the Myrtle, where he was undressed and put to bed, seemingly not a great deal worse for his immersion. Constable McDonnell's watch was seriously damaged by his dip in the salt water. Both he and O'Brien deserve great credit for their plucky actions, as there is no doubt that but for their prompt assistance Briggs would have drowned.

New Zealand Herald. Wednesday June 1th, 1887.


It is stated that an attempt is being made to raise a guarantee fund to induce the Italian Opera Company, now playing in Sydney, to visit New Zealand. A gentleman who takes great interest in theatrical matters is now in correspondence with the musical people of Dunedin, Wellington and Auckland, and, should the result be satisfactory, we may hope to see the company through here early in the spring.
With the exception of the Opera there is little to chronicle in the way of amusements this week. "Thauma" and the American dwarf and Circassian youth still continue to attract a large number of visitors.
The Royal Opera Company opened at Abbot's Opera House on Tuesday evening in "The Mikado". The members of the company arrived on Monday morning, and were announced to give a performance in the evening, but in consequence of the steamer containing the scenery not arriving, the company could not appear. There was a large crowd at the Opera House, and much disappointment was felt when it became known that there would be no performance. The business during the week has been unprecedented.
The Lynch Family have been doing splendid business in the Waikato. They are at Thames to-night.
Mr. W. H. Thompson better known as Zulu Thompson was on a visit to Christchurch during the week. He is looking well and hearty.
The Japanese Village has sailed for Rio.
Dr. Lynn has decided to go to Singapore, Hongkong, Japan and 'Frisco.
The Parnell Shakespeare Club will commence its operations on the 13th instant, and looks forward to a vigorous season until the end of October. Captain Thomas is the able and zealous Hon. secretary, and those who desire information respecting the club should communicate with him.
I believe Jack Smith, late manager at the Sydney Criterion, and Signor Verdi will shortly take the road with a powerful opera company, many of the artists engaged having formed part of Rignold and Allison's "Falka" Company. Their first place of call will be Newcastle.
Madame Vaughan is announced to continue her recitations from favourite authors at the Lyceum Hall, Wellington, on Sunday evenings.

New Zealand Herald. Saturday June 4th, 1887.


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