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Alice May: Gilbert & Sullivan's First Prima Donna (Forgotten by Adrienne Simpson

By Adrienne Simpson

This biography tells the tale of Alice may perhaps, a traveling prima donna within the 19th century who travelled from England to Australia, New Zealand, India and the united states, enjoying pioneering performances of the preferred gentle operas of the day. alongside the best way she took half in lots of premieres, together with the 1st construction of Gilbert and Sullivan's The Sorcerer and the 1st permitted American construction of The Mikado . This vibrant existence tale will attract theatre historians, enthusiasts of the melodrama, burlesque, and the musical level.

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Additional resources for Alice May: Gilbert & Sullivan's First Prima Donna (Forgotten Stars of the Musical Theater)

Sample text

On April 23, 1872, Lyster and his colleagues presented their second Offenbach premiere, Barbe-bleue, a hilarious medieval romp in which the original gruesome legend of Bluebeard was thoroughly burlesqued and Bluebeard’s previous wives turned out to be hidden away, rather than dead. The taxing title role was a triumph for Beaumont, who drew roars of laughter when he entered sporting an unlikely-looking ultramarine beard. Few theatregoers had considered that dancing might be among his talents, nor had they ever heard him deliver such torrents of words so rapidly and intelligibly.

New Zealanders loved entertainment of all kinds, but when driving rain turned the colony’s dirt roads to quagmires or seeped through the chinks in its wooden-walled theatres, even the most enthusiastic patrons stayed at home. A few days of playing to empty benches were enough to tip many a touring company’s budget into the red. Given the difficulties, the most remarkable feature of the Allen tour was its duration. No traveling opera troupe before or since has spent so long in New Zealand. Allen’s Royal English Opera Company arrived in Dunedin on February 28, 1874, rehearsed for just over a week, gave its first performance on March 9, and then toured continuously until it left for Melbourne on March 3 the following year.

The way he controlled his small 26 ADRIENNE SIMPSON group of instrumentalists was praised even by critics who complained about their meager numbers, and he successfully molded the chorus, the Achilles heel of many traveling troupes, into an efficient unit. Alice was a robust, goodhearted, gregarious young woman who got on well with her fellow artists. She was a willing worker, always eager to learn, and seemingly without a mean or jealous bone in her body. At this stage of her career she was probably too green to realize how lucky she was to be employed by Lyster, who was more considerate of his artists and less inclined to exploit them than some of the impresarios she would encounter later.

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