Proprietor / Lessee:
Manager / Director:
Edward Mollenhauer [viola-vn]
Play With Music
2 April 2019
“Niblo’s—The ‘White Fawn.’—That precious transformation scene, ‘the bright realms of the dragon fly,’ about which there was such a row on Friday night at the opening performance of the ‘White Fawn,’ unfolded all its dazzling splendors last evening before the astonished eyes of the crowded auditorium at Niblo’s All we can say about it is that if the dragon fly lives in such a place all New York will soon become entomologists as well as anatomists.The lively insect must have a special charter for female loveliness, colored fires and wonderful scenery; for such a transformation scene has never been seen before on the American stage. The curtain fell at about a quarter past twelve o’clock—a decided improvement on the two o’clock arrangement of the opening night. The fourth performance of the ‘White Fawn’ ran very smoothly from beginning to end, and we can now draw the following conclusions from it:—The scenery and ballet are unequalled, and outstrip everything in their line; but the music and the drama itself are far beneath even the ‘Black Crook.’ In the latter spectacle some of the ballet and dramatic music was excellent; but in this piece, with the exception of the overture and building chorus, the music is unworthy of such scenery and dancing. Mark Smith has one or two good solos and makes the most of his wretched lines, and Miss Fanny Stockton displays the true operatic artist and graceful actress in the part of Aquilina. Vining Bowers and Misses Wilmore, Wills, Montague and Egerton are also cast in the piece. Mr. Bowers and Miss Wilmore have the comic parts and do them justice. Billion, Sohlke, Bonfanti and Von Hamme lead in the ballet. There are some features in the spectacle which the management will find it to their interest to modify. The absurd imitation of the cancan danced by the two funny people of the ‘drama,’ and certain unevoquivical expressions in the dialogue are vulgar in the extreme. But the music, which promised to be of a first class order on account of the splendid orchestra of the theatre and the chorus engaged for this spectacle, shows the most lamentable falling off from the ‘Black Crook.’ A few English glees and selections from English operas would be better than the ridiculous parodies on Offenbach’s works that are sung, ‘Oh, How I Love the Military,’ is listened to with pain by those, who have heard the inimitable Tosteee in ‘The Grand Duchess.’ There is not the slightest chance of the ‘White Fawn’ ever becoming such a magnet as its predecessor, until the excellent vocal and instrumental materials in it are afforded better music to display their powers. The costumes, what there is of them, are very rich and gorgeous, but we doubt if they will ever come generally into fashion. Anatomy and entomology, leg and dragon fly, are the absorbing features of the ‘White Fawn,’ and those that bring hundreds of lorgnettes into requisition. Mr. Wheatley and Mr. Marsten were called out after the intermission.”
“The fifth representation of ‘The White Fawn’ took place last evening. The theatre was quite crowded, and the performance, which is now made to include the Transformation Scene, was over shortly before 12 o’clock. The spectacle, which is intended to eclipse everything in the scenic line, will unquestionably do its work. It is so crowded with brilliant points, each scene surpasses its predecessor so completely, costliness is so much outstripped by greater costliness, that it would scarcely be possible to produce another spectacle more gorgeous. But when this is said all in said that can encourage the liberal gentlemen who have presented it to the public. Such a show piece occupies the same position to theatrical entertainment as pudding does to our dinner. We would not always live on pudding; in fact we could not. Nature rebels at a profusion of sweets. Once a greedy boy called for pudding, would eat nothing but pudding—and got it; he called for another plateful and ate that; he ate a third plateful with moderate enthusiasm, but seemed indifferent to to a fourth, which his loving parents insisted he should eat, because they meant to give him, once for all, a surfeit of pudding, but he ate it mournfully; a fifth plateful was then placed before this naughty boy—and what did he do? He took the once precious morsels of rich pudding and pelted Carlo with it, and threw some of its rich sauce at his nurse, and broke the plate that held the delectable mess, and then fell sick, had to meet the dreadful doctor, and loathed the sight of pudding for many months. The very first scene of the ‘White Fawn’—which represents in set and perspective the palace and Kingdom of King Dingdong—surpasses in beauty and richness anything the public has seen; but every succeeding picture from that representing the Yellow Kingdom, (fitly named after the predominating character of the painting and dressing,) to the palace of Aika, which ends the play, or the supplementary tableau revealing the ‘Realms of the Dragon-fly,’ which bring the performance to a dazzling close, is made to appear more and more gorgeous until the spectator is wearied beyond measure. The costumes of the opening scene, covering the courtiers as well as the fairies of the Bell Kingdom, are the most expensive and the most elaborate yet seen on the stage in this country; but these are changed so often for what is more elaborate and more expensive, that the audience is almost sickened with satins, laces and embroidery. The ballet of the prologue—an elaboration of the bell-dance, which the Ravels once introduced in the pantomime of ‘Medina’—where everybody and everything is decorated with bells—is the most mazy and extensive ever seen in this country; but there are fine ballets coming after this, which are so much better that the spectator is forced to take a quiet napbecausee they are too much for his nerves. The management has lavished money in order to paint the (stage) lily, and gild the (theatrical) gold; they forget that the difference in brilliancy in a ball-room, between five hundred lights and five hundred and fifty lights is scarcely perceptible, and the extra fifty is wasteful. However, this is no concern of the critics. But there is a point which it becomes the duty of the critic to observe closely, connected with this profusion of glitter in the ‘White Fawn.’ There is a total absence of that artistic and natural law which demands contrast. Where every scene is alike splendid, none seem really to be so. The set representing the Kingdom of Aika is really one of the finest specimens of illusion in prespective painting put on the New-York stage; but its absolute beauty and grandness is lost merely because all that has gone before was also beautiful and grand. The visions of glory should not suffer by being placed in contrast with other visions of glory. If there were no sequestered groves in the forest there would be no joy in the sunlit fields beyond. Neither man nor Nature is glad at perpetual warmth, perpetual fertility, perpetual ease. We must face the blast to love the fire; dread the storm to court sunshine; we go with more joy to the feast if hunger pricks us on. It would have been money in the pocket of the Niblo management if they had made one half the new play a contrast to the beauties of the grand tableaux—a halting place on the road to the great surprises—a refreshment before the bewilderment of lights, dances, dresses and beauty.
As acted at first there was, also, a trifle of greediness about the new spectacle. It was not only a spectacle, it was a ballet, not only a ballet but a burlesque, not only these but a pantomime—a fairy extravaganza, an opera, and much that is and ought to be nameless, and which should not be exhibited. It is not only puzzling but it is disastrous to combine so much into one play. Since the first night when the pantomime was so mercilessly hissed, the Harlequinade has been omitted. Although it was certainly necessary to vcut something in order hto terminate the play by a reasonable hour, this summary dismissal of what might have been a popular feature of the piece seems rather cruel. The performances of the Messrs. Hennings as Clown, Pantaloon and Harlequin, although by no means novel to New-York audiences, was clever enough, and might be made attractive in a circus. Some very much less meritorious performances in the piece might also be omitted with great advantage, and particularly the extremely indistinct singing of which is indulged in by Miss Lucy Egerton, as Prince Leander, and Miss Lizzie Wilmore as Finctia. The latter’s imitation of Mlle. Tostee, in the air, ‘I Love the Military,’ is accompanied by posturings that are scarcely delicate. Much of the indelicacy of the ballet of ‘La Perle’—danced by Mlles Bellon, Bonfanti and Von Hamme—which was disapproved by Friday night’s audience, has been corrected, without any loss to the attractiveness or beauty of this dance, but Mlle. Sohlke and Von Hamme still persist in their cancan evolutions, disguised under the figurations of ‘The Nettle Fish Dance,’ and last evening divided the opinions and expressions of the house as upon the opening performance.
To the literary character of the play we have not referred, chiefly for the reason that it hasn’t any. The story that is illustrated by all this glitter and beauty and dancing talent is—as we have heretofore explained—the Countess D'Aulnois Oriental legends of the Princess who was turned into a hind (?) because she disobeyed the injunctions of the fairy about going into society before she attained her fifteenth year. Mr. Mark Smith sustains the character of the parent of the Princess, and Miss Mary Wells that of the mother of the Prince who loved the doomed Princess; and both give a backbone to their parts which the dramatist did not. Indeed, by comparison with the dramatic ability shown by the author of the ‘White Fawn,’ one is inclined to think rather well of the composer of the ‘Black Crook.’ Miss Maria Montague, who possesses a graceful figure, lends also a distinguished bearing to the character of the jealous Princess Aika, who loved the fickle Prince of the Yellow empire, and was discarded by him for the damsel that is transformed into a White Fawn. Miss Fanny Stockton personates the wicked Fairy who causes all the mischief, and Mr. Vining Bowers is limited to the character of Lord Twaddledum—the fickle Princes’ esquire—a part in which, like Dr. Holmes’ poet, he dare not be as funny as he can. The ‘White Fawn’ is announced for performance every evening and Saturday afternoon.”