"The Mikado" gave place last night to ."lolanthe," an opera which, although it was written more than four years ago, is now produced in New Zealand for the first time. Iv the title of this work Mr Gilbert and Sir Arthur (theuDr) Sullivau übaiuioiit-d the lucky P's that iiad served them so weil in "Pinafore," "The Pirates," and " Patit-uce," but their luck, strange io say, did not go with the P's;—a usetul lesson against superstition. " lolanthe " turned out a brilliant success in London—iv fact an embryo peer of the realm was with difficulty restrained from marrying one of the leading fairies—and judging from la9t night's reception its success in Duuedin will be proportionately great. It is not easy to compare "lolanthe" with "Tho Mikado," and the attempt would be altogether unprofitable. The hand of Mr VV. S. Gilbert is, of course, unmistakable in both works, but although his method may be the same always, ii 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 ii. it, and whatever the situation, it is never so firmly grounded but that he can taru it upside down. The mise en scene of " lolauthe" offers better opportunities perhaps thau any other of the Gilbertian operas. Arcaoy is always charming, but it i 8 not ofton nowadays that we are permitted to roam with Phyllis o'er the lea even ill imagination. Her pipe is now a good deal out of time, and things generally in Arcadia have grown commonplace, and ruii considerably to rust. But Mr Gilbert has restored them to exChllent preservation—for an hour. Moreover, he las 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 full robes, coronets, and orders. And by a kindly touch of magic the glade is alive also with _ fairies, tripping daintily in their clinging robes, and equipped with gossamer wiugs 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 lolanthe, Celia, and their companions, but with respect to the peers the caso is a little different. They, even with mantles and orders thrown in, are scarcely even picturesque in Arcadia, but they are novel and therefore Very interesting. Moreover, in the second act they are translated with every success to Palace 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 — lolanthe. lolanthe had injudiciously married a mortal, a penal offence by the criminal code of fairyland, aud iv expiation she has been dwelling head downwards at the bottom of a stream ever .since. At the united intercession of her companions she is now pardoned by the fairy queen, and before the eyes of the audience she rises dripping fmm the weeds aud water and resumes her fairy garb instantaneously—wings and all. Hereupon it appears that lolanthe has a son by her marriage — one Strephnon, a hybrid in Arcadian shepherd's dress, half mortal and half fairy. That is to say, he is a fairy down to his waist, but his legs are raor- I tal. A constitution attended with its disadvau- j tages, as he himself explains: '• My body can creep through a keyhole, hut what's the good of that when my legs are left kicking behind ? I can make myself invisible down to the waist, but that's of no use when my legs remain exposed to view? My brain is a fairy brain,but from the waist downwards I'm a gibbering idiot. My upper half is immortal, but my lower half grows older every day, and some day or other must die of old age. What's to become of my upper half when I've buried my lower half J really don't know !" Strephnon, it immediately appears, is already involved in difficulties incidental to mortals only. He is in love with aud determined to marry Phyllis, an Arcadian shepherdess, also, alas ! a ward in Chancery, and under the legal guardianship, therefore, of a peculiarly susceptible Lord Chancellor in the person of Mr Howard Vernon. Spaco does not permit us to follow put the workings of the plot from this point, and it has been besides often told. Mr Gilbert dabbles a little in pathos towards the fiui-h in the sceue between lolanthe and the Chancellor, and he dabbles a great deal in politics throughout. . The most uncompromising Radical could notdig more viciously at the House of Lords than does the " poet of paradoxes " iv this libretto. 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 row 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, aud graGe of expression the composer has surpassed his usual excellence. The standard is higher aud more evenly maintained than 'iv any of his comic operas written before or since. There are 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 Veruon's patter song has most xlever aud 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 cm 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 Mii-i Ida Osborue is entitled to warm praise for her performance of lolanthe. She sang well, and was unmistakably tendered but refused an encore for her ballad "He loves," >n vh-! second act. Miss Elsa.May, Miss Barnett. and Mr Veruon, it may be mentioned, were required to respond to several encores during the evening, and the compliment wag in every case well deserved. Nothing could be more n> finedly humorous than Mr Vernon's Lord Chancellor. He aped the judicial manner and the judicial accent in a style that scarcely seemed for the moment to be burlasque. His conscientious gravity was alternated, however, with a wjld friskine^s that would have appalled Chancery Lane. His excruciating • lance 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 if- more gaily as Strephnon, but we have it upon the 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 a3 this was, though, it could scarcely 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 \Voodfl«ld as Lords Mountararat and Tolloller, and Mr Grundy acted and wing well in the small part of Private Willis. Too much praise cannot.well be accorded the management for the mounting of the opera, aud a successful run is evidently jissuret}
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"IOLANTHE.", Otago Daily Times, Issue 7824, 19 March 1887
"IOLANTHE." Otago Daily Times, Issue 7824, 19 March 1887
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