Original Australian Cast
Saturday, October 27th, 1900
Initial run: 42 performances

The Sultan

Mr. Brownlow

Hassan

Mr. George Lauri

Yussuf

Mr. Charles Kenningham

Abdallah

Mr. Bathurst

Grand Vizier

Mr. H.J. Ward

The Royal Executioner

Mr. G. Majeroni

The Sultana, Rose-In-Bloom

Miss Ada Winston-Weir

Honey-Of-Life

Miss Joey Cassellis

Heart's Desire

Miss Carrie Moore

Blush-Of-Morning

Miss Engleheart

Dancing Sunbeam

Miss Jennie Opie

REVIEW OF AUSTRALASIAN PREMIERE OF 'THE ROSE OF PERSIA'

Saturday night's reopening of Her Majestys was a sort of double event for the theatregoers. First, there was the (single) success of Sullivan's latest opera "The Rose of Persia," a work displaying the composers inventiveness and refinement at their very best, secondly the circle audience were lost in wonder and admiration at the transformation of their own surroundings. Captain Basil Hood has interwoven several themes from the "The Arabian Nights" with his clever libretto for "The Rose of Persia," and it could be fancied that Mr. Williamson had gone to the same source for a touch of enchanter's power. By a wave of his wand, as it were, the meanest and most cramped approaches to any theatre in Melbourne have been converted into something luxurious and positively imposing.

The fashionable "first-nighters," who used to win to their seats after a struggle, polite but pushful, found the new foyer of Her Majesty's one of the roomiest and most elaborately appointed that Australian theatres can boast of. Naturally the circle was nearly emptied during the interval in order that the new crush-room, smoking lounge, and promenade might be fittingly explored.

Full recognition of the daintiness and charm of the music Sir Arthur Sullivan has presented in his latest composition for the stage will only come when the majority of the auditors have got used to the Oriental brilliancy of the mise en scene and the humour of the libretto, and begin to pay more attention to the mastery scoring of the work. Airs that catch the ear in a trice and are quickly vulgarised by over popularity will be sought almost in vain, while the richness and spontaneity of the composition, taken as a whole, is a guarantee that "The Rose of Persia" will be prized by connoisseurs long after they have ceased to feel interest in many of Sullivan's earlier productions. Speaking generally, it may be said that the orchestration shows even more fertility of resource than is looked for from this foremost of English composers, that the work abounds in brilliant solos and concerted pieces, and that similiar quaint devices to those by which Sullivan imparted Japanese "local colour" to "The Mikado" music, are employed to give the Persian colour to the new production. That is not indeed the only point which suggests the bracketing of the two operas. Everyone remembers the madrigal written in scholarly bygone style which was one of the features of "The Mikado". An equally charming quartet, "Joy and Sorrow," composed in much the same vein is introduced in the second act of "The Rose of Persia," and bids fair to rival it in favour. For the rest listeners cannot fail to be struck by the fine finales, especially that to the first act, and by the aspiring range and intricacy of the music written for the leading soprano part, that of the Sultana. By acquitting herself as she did of the task imposed upon her, Miss Ada Winston-Weir must greatly enhance her reputation here.

The great requirement of opera bouffe, that "book" and characterisation shall be as diverting as the music is exhilarating, is excellently fulfilled by Captain Hood. His chief medium of humour is the grotesque old Persian Hassan, the best piece of comedy Mr. Lauri has given us for many a day, but there are also subsidiary elements of mirth, such as the shrewish qualities of "Dancing Sunbeam," the chief of Hassan's six and twenty wives; the insatiable hunger of "Honey of Life," the Sultan's pretty slave; the comic abasement of the Grand Vizier, and were Mr. G. Majeroni to revise his reading a little we have no doubt the Royal Executioner would become an amusing functionary. Hassan, a smug-visaged, sadly garbed Oriental, who is seen at the outset smoking his hubble-bubble among the ladies of his harem, has earned the soubriquet "Mad Hassan" by his philanthropy, which consists in gathering ti his house all the sturdy beggars of the city, and lavishingly entertaining them.

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

Mr. Lauri never worked in better vein than as Hassan, sometimes full of glib conceits, at others a most lugubrious picture of fear and dejection. His "make up" alone is a perpetual source of amusement; he never overstrains the humour of the part, but sings, dances, and talks with an unforced drollery that keeps the audience in a simmer of merriment. Hassan's value was attested by the fact that the only time the performance seemed in danger of dragging was during the first half of the second act, when he was off the stage.

Miss Winston-Weir, as already said, made a great success of the most important vocal part. The beautiful but highly ornate song,"Neath My Lattice," calling for real brilliancy of execution, and the Sultana's plea for mercy in the finale of the first act, were her best achievements. The second soprano part, that of "Heart's Desire," was excellently placed, to, in the hands of Miss Carrie Moore, who played her love scenes with Yussuf delightfully, and sang with great freshness and expression, particularly in her principal number, "O, What is Love."

Yussuf, as interpreted by Mr. Kenningham, is, we suspect, a rather more energetic and "nervy" individual than he was meant to be. But the tenor was in capital voice, and contributed, both by his acting and singing, to the general success. His duet with Miss Moore in the second act won a well-deserved encore, but a still more popular item was his blithe drinking song, "I care not how a man be clad." This is sung to the motley crew of mendicants in Hassan's house immediately after these have performed a most ingeniously composed chorus.

Miss Jennie Opie, in the contralto part of "Dancing Sunbeam," had some trying music, which she executed passably, and played an important role in the story; she has, indeed; more to do than the Sultana herself. Clearly from the dialogue the termagant wife is not intended to be the attracted personage Miss Opie makes her. A finely robust Sultan was presented by Mr. Brownlow. He sang with much humour the duo with Miss Weir, "Suppose," and is called upon to display a good deal of this quality throughout, for the Sultan is a little bit of a cynic, and very much of a social philosopher. One of the songs is quite upon the Gilbert model, emphasising the doctrine that -

"The world of men and women is a social 'ginger-pop'
The dregs are at the bottom and the froth is at the top."

More than perfunctory praise is due to Mr. Bathurst, who has some good music in his part of Abdallah; Mr. H.J. Ward was diverting as the Vizier; and Miss Joey Cassellis and Miss Engleheart earned favour as "Honey of Life" and "Blush of the Morning." Much might be said of the excellence of the chorus-singing under M. Leon Caron's baton; for, although that is a merit we have come to look for naturally, it should not be accepted without acknowledgment. the Persian costumes gave the stage a rarely picturesque appearance, and Miss Everett received a call for the Persian dance she had arranged. Miss Tillie Woodlock executed the pas seul, and the dresses of the Royal Ballerinas made a symphony in blue, orange, white, and green. At the close of the performance, applause.

Melbourne Argus. October 29th, 1900.

THEATRE REVIEW

PRINCESS THEATRE:
"Carmen"

The performance of "Carmen" by Mr. George Musgrove's Opera Company on Saturday evening at the Princess's Theatre was a rare and delightful treat, not alone to the specialist in operatic technique, but also to the ordinary music lover, who is capable of feeling the charm of the melodious composition, rendered with thorough artistic feeling, and with all the accessories that the sister arts could lend to the production. While the chief honours of the representation undoubtedly lie with the prima donna, Miss Agnes Janson, for her brilliant and dramatic performance in the part of the wayward and passionate cigarette girl, whose tragic story, taken from Prosper Merimee, gave Bizet the theme for his music, yet the "seconda", Miss Lilian Coomber, as Micaela, and the tenor, Signor Salvi, as Don Jose, also materially strengthened their claim upon public appreciation, while Herr Max Eugene, though hardly realising the ideal bull-fighter of the Escamillo type, as far as his acing was concerned, nervertheless trolled out his music with such spirit that one could forgive an occasional lack of warmth and stiffness of gesture in the pure enjoyment of listening to his rich baritone notes.

Melbourne Argus. October 29th, 1900.

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