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From The Era, December 21, 1879.


NEW YORK, DECEMBER 6 —The latest novelties are An Arabian Night at Daly's Theatre, Bartley Campbell's Galley Slave at Haverly's, and the Gilbert-Sullivan debut in Pinafore at the Firth-avenue. I use the word debut advisedly, as the sequel will show…

The Gilbert and Sullivan Pinafore was a brilliant success. With Sullivan leading the orchestra and Gilbert on the stage among the chorus, so thoroughly disguised that his best friends did not recognise him, how could it be otherwise? Owing to Mr Gilbert's presence on the stage, the piece moved with surprising smoothness. The new “gags" and the new "business" received emphatic applause and elicited roars of laughter. The "gags" consist mainly of changes which are calculated to hit the fancy by surprise in the nature of "a sell." When the anticipated reply "Hardly ever" is in the minds of the audience, they are surprised by the substitution of "Very seldom." And so with "You're a remarkably fat sailor" for "You're a remarkably fine sailor," and so on.

The most notable change is in the rendition of the "Did you hear him, did you hear him? He is swearing, he is swearing," chorus. The American Pinafore companies have invariably shouted this chorus at the top of their lungs, under the impression that loudness is most expressive of horrified amazement at the " Damme, it's too bad" of the Captain. Messrs. Gilbert and Sullivan have taught them, with far more artistic intuitiveness, to sing this chorus in a whisper, as though struck almost speechless by the Captains "ill-advised asperity," while Hebe's "He is swearing" is heard distinctly above the combined voices of the others. The effect is very striking. But the really noticeable difference in the interpretation of the tuneful little work was the orchestration. There was a breadth, colour, and tone, together with a harmonious blending with the vocalism, which were utterly wanting in what may be called our home-made Pinafores. The singing and acting were evenly good, without being superlatively excellent.The different roles have been equally as well interpreted here.To institute comparisons would be tedious and unprofitable. All of the company were recalled and received a most gratifying welcome.

When Mr Sullivan entered the orchestra and took the baton, he was greeted with such a storm of applause that he was compelled to respond by repeated bows ere he was allowed to make a start. At the end of the evening's performance the vast audience remained, cheering and calling loudly for the authors. No finer class of people, representative of all that is intellectual, artistic, and socially elevated in New York, ever gathered within the walls of a Theatre, to do honour to genius and culture. At last, Messrs. Gilbert and Sullivan, in response to the unremitting calls of the audience, came before the curtain. Mr Gilbert made the following speech:—

Ladies and Gentlemen, — It appears you expect a speech from me. It is only fair to say that I was entirely unprepared for such a reception, and yet it has been such that I should be faulty if the words did not come to me that express in some measure, ever so small, the thanks due for your pleasant welcome of ourselves and our company. Concerning the piece, you are quite aware it is not new, and that it has been presented in your Metropolis more than once. Our object has been to enable you to institute comparisons with other performances of the kind, because our version of Pinafore has had a run of over five hundred nights at the Opera Comique in London, and is still on the boards, and we hope to be able to present certain new features that would maintain the great interest that has been shown in the opera in America. In my own behalf, as well as that of my colleague, I may say that we never can be too grateful for the warmth of your welcome. We are here simply as two hard-working Englishmen whose ambition it is to supply your stage and ours with work that is not altogether imbecile, and that shall merit just such praise as has greeted our ears to-night."

The speech was applauded to the echo. These two famous Englishmen — and it's greatly to their credit, for they themselves have said it, that they are Englishmen — are the lions of the hour. The production of the new opera is looked forward to with no little interest. It is finished. Pinafore will keep the stage only a limited number of nights, pending the rehearsal of the new work.

Mr Gilbert has read the libretto of Princess Toto to the members of the Standard Theatre, and it was received with delight. The music is by Mr Frederick Clay. The opera will be shortly produced at the above named house, with the greatest attention to details. Nothing will be wanting to ensure success, if the work merits it.

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