White Fawn

Event Information

Niblo's Garden

Proprietor / Lessee:
William Wheatley

Manager / Director:
William Wheatley

Edward Mollenhauer [viola-vn]

Event Type:
Play With Music

Record Information


Last Updated:
2 April 2019

Performance Date(s) and Time(s)

17 Jan 1868, 7:30 PM
18 Jan 1868, 1:00 PM
18 Jan 1868, 7:30 PM

Program Details

Niblo's Garden has been closed all month in preparation for this production.

Premiere performance postponed from Wednesday (01/15/68) night.

Performers and/or Works Performed


Announcement: New York Clipper, 04 January 1868, 310.
Advertisement: New-York Times, 11 January 1868, 7.
Announcement: New-York Times, 13 January 1868, 5.

“Mr. Wheatley announces that his very popular theatre will be reopened on Wednesday evening and that the new spectacle of the ‘White Fawn’ will then be produced. For the last eight days it has been rehearsed by daylight and gaslight, and for the past eight months painters and carpenters and costumers have been busy at it. The piece is founded on one of the fairy stories written by Countess d’Aulnois, and tells about a good queen who prayed so long to the fairies for a child to bless her marriage that she finally received from them a beautiful pledge of their affections in the person of the princess Desiree—so named because she had been so long desired. Of course, though, there is an evil-disposed fairy in the story…[continues to recount nearly all of the plot]…The rest of the story can be imagined. But if the imagination is not great enough to compass the end, a visit to Niblo’s on Wednesday, or any evening thereafter for the next year, will probably afford the necessary satisfaction. As no fairy story ever was written for the mere purpose of amusing, and all have their proper moral, the good lesson of this is without doubt to show

--‘To what perils and temptations

the youthful maid exposed may be,

The word too soon allow’d to see.’

As an indication of popular disposition toward the new piece, it is stated that already $12,000 worth of seats have been sold for the first week’s representations.”

Advertisement: New York Herald, 14 January 1868, 8.
Advertisement: New-York Times, 15 January 1868, 7.

Includes detailed lists of songs and scenes.

Announcement: New-York Daily Tribune, 15 January 1868, 7.

“The first performance of ‘The White Fawn’ at Niblo’s is announced for to-night. Mr. Wheatley has made every possible preparation for a great success. He may, indeed, be likened to the Theban eagle of the poet, ‘sailing with supreme dominion through the azure deep of air.’ The gigantic intellect of Mr. Harry Palmer has likewise been brought into play, and has reorganized the ‘celebrated Parisienne Ballet Troupe,’ of which not a single member is Parisian. The renowned dancers, whose many-twinkling toes have so long bewitched the susceptible youth of this metropolis, are of course to appear as usual. Bonfanti, Billon, Sohike—it is only necessary to mention the magical names. M. Costa will direct the Ballet. There is to be Pantomime and Harlequinade. The Hemming Brothers have come hither from London, to-gether with Amy Bennett, who is to be Columbine, and there is every prospect of fast and furious fun. Mr. Mollenhauer has augmented and reorganized his orchestra. Marston, Strong, and Sacchetti have painted new scenery. One scene is to be shown that is said to have cost $30,000 [might be $50,000, very difficult to read]—and that ought [illeg…] most exacting American taste. [Discusses costume, machinery, gaslight providers.] Of the dramatic production whereof the White Fawn is the theme, we hear good reports. It is an eclectic affair. The ‘Sleeping Beauty,’ the ‘Forty Thieves,’ and other such classic works, have been laid under contribution in its manufacture. The authorship is attributed to a Mr. Mortimer, whom we shrewdly suspect to be a myth. The piece is well cast. [Lists cast.] For many moths this pageant has been in preparation, slowly taking shape, and growing beneath the eyes of energetic industry. Of late the rehearsals of it have been incessant. Mr. Wheatley and Mr. Vincent, respectively arrayed in ‘the helment of Navarre,’ have wrought like heroic beavers—their white plumes shining, by day and by night, in every part of the theater. The final rehearsal of the piece took place on Monday evening, and lasted till nearly dawn. All is ready now, we believe—unless some untoward accident displaces the mirth and defers the good meetings. Even the very reverend Mr. Smythe is said to have his new sermon on the abomination of the Ballet quite ready for delivery. Meantime young New-York is in arms and eager for the display, which is a very happy state of things, indeed, by way of welcome to ‘The White Fawn.’”

Announcement: New-York Times, 16 January 1868, 4.

“Niblo’s Garden. There was no performance at this theatre last evening, the production of the new fairy spectacle and pantomime, ‘White Fawn,’ advertised to take place, having been deterred till Friday night. The announcement of the postponement was made early in the day, but not timely enough to prevent a large crowd assembling about the doors of the theatre at the usual hour. There was naturally a deal of discontent manifested at the disappointment, and it is really to be regretted that earlier and more public notice could not be given in cases of this kind, so that people (some of whom came from a great distance to the theatre) may not suffer inconvenience. We believe, however, the postponement to have been absolutely necessary, as much for the safety of the piece as for the pleasure of the audience—and that Messrs. Wheatley and Jarrett and Palmer are making every exertion to ensure playg-oers [sic] another rare rare and radiant spectacle in the ‘White Fawn.’”

Advertisement: New York Herald, 16 January 1868, 7.

“THE WHITE FAWN. The undersigned hereby give notice that the spectacular fairy extravaganza of the White Fawn has been copyrighted and that the mechanical effects and scenery have been patented; any person using the title or any colorable imitation of the play or its effects will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.


Announcement: New York Herald, 17 January 1868, 4.

The White Fawn at Niblo’s.—To-night positively the successor of the Black Crook will take possession of the boards at Niblo’s. The play is divided into a prologue and three acts, and is set with scenery, ballet, pantomime, &c., in such magnficient style that it bids fair to eclipse its predecessor. Fanny Stockton, Mark Smith and Vining Bowers are the principal characters in the cast, and Bonfanti, Sholke and Bulon [sic] in the ballet. The music is of a superior character to what we generally have in spectacles, the principal morceaux being by Offenbach and Mollenhauer. A double male quartet has been selected for the chorus. The transformation scene is from the spectacle of the ‘Forty Thieves,’ which was brought out at Covent Garden, London, and the entire scenery and appointments of the ‘Biobe aux Bois’ [sic] from the Porte St. Martin theatre [sic], Paris, will be used in the ‘White Fawn.’ The number of people engaged in this spectacle is over three hundred.”

Announcement: New York Clipper, 18 January 1868, 326.
Review: New York Herald, 18 January 1868, 8.

“Niblo’s Garden—‘The White Fawn.’—…As a musical extravaganza the piece is much below par, though Miss Fanny Stockton appears to some advantage in one or two well rendered morceaux, as did also Miss Lizzie Wilmore. One of Offenbach’s airs given by this lady drew the heartiest applause of the night. As a scenic spectacle the ‘White Fawn’ endeavors to do too much. It shows just what the limit of the spectacular tendency must be. It becomes unwieldy and wears out the public patience in the time necessary for the changes. Some of its scenes are really grand pieces of this style of art, but every act is stuffed full of trash to fill up the time necessary for setting other great pieces; the waits are as long as the act, and in the last act a superfluous, feeble, utterly worthless entertainment in the shape of a pantomime is sprung upon the audience without any reference to the play, merely to cover the stage while the grand closing piece of scenery is being set. We left the theatre at a quarter of two. At that time the pantomime had been on the stage three quarters of an hour, with a poor clown worrying himself to death in the effort to keep the audience amused with jokes two hundred years old. He became a heroic figure. We can make necessary allowances for a first night, but this was too much…”

Review: New-York Times, 18 January 1868, 4.

“The new fairy spectacle of the ‘White Fawn’ was produced last evening, and, it is scarcely necessary to add, before a most numerous audience, whose members were rather more excitable and noisily disposed than New-York audiences usually are, even upon ‘first nights.’ Light words inflamed them, and the faintest political hint fired them. Quite a small conflict of cheering and hissing occurred during the thid act over an allusion to Gen. Grant, and the dialogue was not permitted to be proceeded with until the General and the President received the conventional number of hurrahs. It is not possible to give any very clear ideas of the piece at this writing, as the indications were at the end of the third act that it would not conclude before half-past one. The curtain did not rise on the fourth until five minutes after twelve. The play is not long of itself, but the entr’acts seemed to be unnecessarily protracted. All these will, of course, be reduced as frequent performance oils the action. As a spectacle, we think it may be justly said that the new production does not pale before the well-remembered glories of the ‘Black Crook.’ [Reviews non-musical aspects, including costumes, special effects, dancing.] There are a number of effective chorusses [sic] during the piece, and songs, in which Mr. Mark Smith was heard to good advantage, and in which Miss Stockton, Miss Wilmore and Mrs. [sic] Vining Bowers were heard to decided advantage; or, to be more truthful, in which they were not heard at all. In fact, most of the dialogue of thepiece was lost through the indistinction of those to whom fell the duty of uttering it. Nevertheless, looking upon this long expected piece as a gala spectacle, it is impossible to imagine one more perfect of its kind, or one better calculated to afford infinite gratification to the public at large.” Concludes with some comments on the Harliquinade, which closes the piece.”

Announcement: Boston Daily Evening Transcript, 18 January 1868, 326.

“‘The White Fawn,’ after careful preparation and many rehearsals by day and night, is announced for production at Niblo’s Garden on the 15th instant.” Lists cast.

In separate paragraph, separated from announcement but at the bottom of the same column: “The ‘White Fawn’ has been copyrighted, and Managers Wheatley, Jarrett and Palmer—in an advertisement elsewhere—caution managers against using its title, or the mechanical and scenic effects, which have also been patented.”

Review: New York Clipper, 24 January 1868, 334.

Extensive review. “‘The White Fawn.’—The first public performance of this fairy burlesque, spectacle, pantomime, gymnastic, acrobatic, dramatic, ballet d’action, etc., was attempted at Niblo’s Garden on the 17th inst. Crammed to suffocation or repletion are ancient and well-used fancies, and scarcely represent our meaning. If every one had been good enough to have passed himself through a mangle and come out half his original size, and all the ladies had come clad as scantily as those of the ballet on the stage, the lessee would have taken it as a personal favor. Whether one looked far and away into the gallery where the ‘gods’ were seething with anticipation, or cast an eye down into the parquet, or noticed the closely packed circles, or the aisles crowded with camp stools, one could see that every face was aglow with expectation of the promised beauties to be revealed. Long before eight o’clock it was impossible to obtain even standing room in the vast lobby. The performance commenced a few minutes after eight o’clock.” Reviews individual performers as part of a recounting of the plot. Portions are extremely difficult to read.

: Strong, George Templeton. New-York Historical Society. The Diaries of George Templeton Strong, 1863-1869: Musical Excerpts from the MSs, transcribed by Mary Simonson. ed. by Christopher Bruhn., 29 January 1868.

“Went through the weather to see ‘The White Fawn’ at Niblo’s, a grand new show piece, manifestly got up at very great cost, & said to surpass ‘The Black Crook’ itself, which drew crowded houses for a year and a half. Ballet, spectacle, machinery, & pink legs are its chief constituents. The dialogue is senseless, the plot undiscoverable, & the music commonplace plagiarisms from the Grande Duchesse excepted. But the dresses, properties, decorations &c are novel & lavish, except the costumes of the ballet girls which are the reverse of lavish in quantity, tho’ various & pretty in design & color. A grand procession of fishes, oysters, & lobsters is very grotesque & carefully equipped. The final tableau or ‘transformation scene’ is particularly elaborate & pretty. A scene shifter would call it gorgeous. In a meretricious sort of way it is quite artistic, with its slowly shifting masses of color, changing lights, & groups of good-looking young women (with very little on) nestling or hanging about everywhere. But the whole production depends for its success mainly on the well formed lower extremities of female humanity. It is doubtless the most showy, & the least draped, specimen of what may be called the Feminine-Femoral School of dramatic art ever produced in N. Y.  House packed—men mostly—&  enthusiastic.”