THE PREMIERE OF CELLIER'S 'DORIS.'
[From Our London Correspondent,]
London, April 26. At the close of the first performance of 'Doris' on Saturday night, Mr Alfred Cellier was called for and enthusiastically cheered by the packed house, there evidently being no two opinions as to the merits of the music of the new work. About the libretto, however, the audience differed considerably. A few of Mr 8. C. Stephenson's friends in the stalls and dress circle clapped con amore, but from the pit and gallery came the unmistakeable sound of hissing, Mr Stevenson having retired, there were loud cries for "Leslie," to which that gentleman for some time prudently remained deaf. At length, however, a too zealous friend pushed the manager before the curtain, and then arose an angrier storm of hisses, hooting, and cat-calls than I have ever before heard in a London theatre. This had, I imagine, no connection with the piece just performed, but was a
gratuitous expression of opinion by au outraged British public on certain recent passages in Mr Henry Leslie's private life. The score of •Doris' is, to my mind, aggressively English. It teems with glees, madrigals, and concerted pieces of all descriptions. Experts inform me most of these are very fine, but I confess I thought tha general effect heavy, and pined for the more frivolous vocal waltz or an occasional catchy couplet. The solos nearly all pleased. "Tottie" Coffin (looking "quite too utterly adorable" in Elizabethan doublet and hose) has a pretty ballad, ' Honor bids me speed| away,' in the second act, but the songs likely to be really most popular fall to Furneaux Cook and Ben Davies. The first-named has a rollicking, jovial canticle in praise of beer, which was encored three times, pit and gallery finally joining uproariously in the chorus; whilst the latter made a big hit with a lovely ballad, • All the wealth of all the worlds.' Curiously enough, none of the ladies scored. Your old friend massive Alice Barnett made her renlrce in a small part, and tried hard to galvanise Stephenson's feeble lines into life. Misß Amy Angarde, to everyone's surprise, proved a very poor substitute for Marie Tempest, who smiled radiantly from a private box at her old " pals " on the stage ; and Ann tte Albu was painfully nervous. As for Arthur Williams and Harriett Coveney—well, 'twere kindest to draw a veil over their sad portions. Williams began light-heartedly enough, but as forced jokelet after jokelet fell flit he became desperately and deadly funny. For fully ten minutes at the beginning of the third act the unfortunate comedian had the stage to himself, and ought to have kept us all laughing. But he could not. It was late, the Spanish masque had yet to come on, and poor Williams's fooling simply bored everyone to extinction.
The libretto of' Doris' is so feeble that I misdoubt even Cellier's music, the splendid mounting of the piece, and the interesting Elizabethan processions pulling it through. What judicious compression and unscrupulous " gagging" may accomplish one cannot of course venture to prophesy. I understand that at the end of ' Dorothy's' run very little, if any, of the original dialogue remained. It had been improved out of recognition. This was so, too, with ' Falka.' Still both « Dorothy ' and ' Falka' rejoiced in plain, straightforward stories everyone could understand. The difficulty is to make head or tail of ' Doris.'
In the first act we find Alderman Shelton, family, and apprentices picnicking merrily on Highgate Hill. Prominent among the gay crowd of lads and lasses are Martin Border, the chief apprentice (Ben Da vies), and Doris Shelton, the Alderman's daughter. This couple love each other, and have just warbled as much in conventional operatic fashion, when Sir Philip Shelton (Haydyn Coffin) rushes in, and having intimated that—for some neverexplained reason—he is a traitor with a price on his head, requests to be hid. Martin inserts the knight within a painfully conspicuous hollow tree, and is overseen doing so by Diniver, a wicked and dolorously comic scrivener (Arthur Williams). This person betrays Sir Philip to the Alderman, who goes for the authorities; but whilst the old man is away Martin explains the situation musically to the apprentice?, who make Diniver change clothes with Carey, and insert him in the hollow tree. The consequence is, of course, Diniver is arrested in mistake for Carey, who escapes as the curtain comes down on the first act.
In the second act Sir Philip is still in full flight, and Doris and Martin are assisting him. Martin, however, becomes jealous, and a letter embroglio of the usual sort finally leads him to the conclusion Sir Philip and Doris a>e false. Thereupon the young man incontinently betrays Sir Philip. Before, however, the latter s arrest can be effected Martin finds out the incriminatory letter was from the knight's Jiancde, and that he has blundered terribly. Anxious to repair his Ireachery at all costs, he gives himself up in the knight's place, and Sir Philip is again seen escaping (this time on the tiles) as the curtain falls. In the third act Sir Philip continues in full flight till the Queen's pardon to all political prisoners puts an end to his troubles and the piece. This sounds simple, but the piece is in reality burdened with endless trivial complications which have no bearing on the main story, and seem merely created to puzzle people. If you ever see ' Doris' in Australia you will probably see a much amended version. Meanwhile, vocalists who like to be aufait with the times cannot do better thau order ' All the wealth of all the worlds' and ' The Alderman's song' (as I expect it will be called) in praise of beer. The mounting of ' Doris' (as I told you last week) has cost L 6.000 odd, so that it will be a serious matter if, after rearrangement, etc, it fails to catch on. The best thing Mr Cellier could do then would be to have a new libretto written, just as he did for ' Nell Gwynne' (afterwards ' Dorothy ') when it failed in Manchester.
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THE PREMIERE OF CELLIER'S 'DORIS.', Evening Star, Issue 7934, 15 June 1889, Supplement
THE PREMIERE OF CELLIER'S 'DORIS.' Evening Star, Issue 7934, 15 June 1889, Supplement
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