IOLANTHE.
Musical Record 1882 December 16 220: 204 [unsigned review]

    IOLANTHE

received its first representation in Boston at the new Bijou Theatre (an extended description of which has already appeared in The Musical Record¹) on Monday evening, before an audience completely filling the gorgeous auditorium, and numbering probably about twelve hundred.
    There were several novel features which the audience had time to notice previous to the rising of the curtain.
    Among the special "new ideas" were the Moorish proscenium arch; the absence of footlights; the illumination of the entire theatre with electric lights; the perfect ventilation; the substitution of heavy draperies for the usual doors;

[...]

    The Bijou is without doubt the handsomest and most unique theatre in the United States, far surpassing all others in the richness and taste displayed in its ornamentation, and Bostonians may well be congratulated upon possessing so elegant a home for light opera.
    The story of 'Iolanthe' has already been fully given in these columns.²
    Mr. Gilbert's libretto is not quite up to the witty standard he some time since established. The humor is often forced, and at times the lines are positively silly. There are, however, quite a number of very bright things in it, among which are the following:
    Lord Chancellor.—Ah, but my good sir, you mustn't tell us what chorused Nature told you. It's not evidence. Now, an affidavit from a thunder-storm, or a few words on oath from a heavy shower would meet with all the attention they deserve!" Again, Lord Mount says: "If there is an institution in Great Britain which is not susceptible of any improvement at all it is the House of Peers!" Celia says: "We know it (the wish to marry a mortal) is weakness, but the weakness is so strong!" The Chancellor says: "Conceive my joy when I distinctly perceived a tear glistening in my own eye!"
    The music is the very best that Dr. Sullivan has yet composed. There is scarcely a 'catchy' air in it, but its purely melodic lack is more than compensated for by its wondrous effects of instrumentation. There is melody of a higher character than the mere ear-tickling airs of the variety theatre and the 'Mulligan Guard' order of 'tunes,' and we are glad of it. The mission of the composer is to elevate not to degrade his art, and Dr. Sullivan may well be congratulated upon the high plane upon which he has constructed the score of 'Iolanthe.' The beauties of the orchestration grow upon one wonderfully, and to those with a really musical ear the work is much more pleasing than are all the tinkling tunes which are thrown at the gallery gods as a 'sop to Cerberus.'
    We will not attempt to pick out all the gems of the work. but will instance those which seemed to us to be particularly enjoyable. The duet (Phyllis and  Strephon) 'None shall part us;' Ballad, (Tololler [sic]), 'Spurn not the nobly born;' Ensemble (finale of Act I.0; Song, (Lord Mount), 'When Britain really ruled the waves'; Ballad, (Iolanthe). 'He loves!' This last number is the gem of the piece.
    The music may never become as popular as that of 'Pinafore' and 'Patience,' but if so, it will be because it is very much over the heads of the masses. However, we do not believe that it will not be a success. In our opinion the public will go again and again to hear it, and they will enjoy it more and more every time.
    The cast at the Bijou is a really good one. Mr. H. E. Dixey's Lord Chancellor is unctuously droll, and he sings his songs sufficiently well. His dancing is the embodiment of agility and grace. Mr. W. H. Fessenden's sweet voice is heard to excellent advantage as Earl Tololler and he speaks his lines with due regard to their import. Sig. Brocolini has not yet become easy in the part of Strephon, but his music is well sung, and his performance promises to become quite satisfactory. Mr. Ed. Temple' [sic] Lord Mount, is finely acted, and well sung. Mr. A. Kammerlee is admirable, vocally and dramatically, as Private Willis. Miss Clara Poole's Iolanthe is a good interpretation throughout. She sings very sweetly and artistically, and has never acted so well before. Miss Edmondson is excellent. Miss M. A. Sanger is sufficiently masculine in her rendering of the Fairy Queen to please even Mr. Gilbert, and she embodies the character quite well. She is somewhat careless in her lines, however, as instead of singing 'I turn the hose of Common Sense,' she sings it 'I sound the hose,' etc., which is simply nonsense.
    We would particularly recommend the members of the company to re-study the libretto. a verbatim reading of Mr. Gilbert's lines should be insisted upon by the stage manager. To give the 'general idea' or the drift of the lines is not sufficient. They should be read literally.
    The chorus — especially the male voices — is excellent.
    The costumes are among the richest ever seen upon our stage. The scenery is a marvel of realism.
    Manager Charles Harris (from London) superintended the stage production, and certainly deserves great credit for the perfection to which the rehearsals had been carried. There was scarcely a hitch.
    Mr. John J. Braham conducted the orchestra with skill and judgment and his orchestra was in fine condition.
    Mr. T. A. Edison, the famous inventor, personally superintended the manipulation of the electric lights, which worked to a charm.
    The Messrs. Hastings and Manager Tyler have opened their new theatre most auspiciously. We predict a great success for it, as well as for 'Iolanthe.'
 
 

¹ Musical Record 1882 December 2 218: 163 (back to article)

² Musical Record 1882 December 2 218: 165 (back to article)

transcribed by Helga J. Perry, 26 April 2004
updated 1 May 2004