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Page ImageNebraska State Journal
It was officially announced yesterday that Mr. Frank C. Zehrung would assume the management of the Funke opera house with the beginning of the new season. The house was tendered him some time ago, but it was only last week that he decided to become its manager. He will not give up his present business, his removal to the opera house block making it possible for him to conduct both without neglecting either.
It is a part of the contract that the house shall be put in perfect order. This means the expenditure of several thousand dollars. First of all the place will be scoured outuntil all suggestion of the Crawford mismanagement is removed. Then a new hard maple floor will be placed on the stage, the dressing rooms will be overhauled, the scenery will be rebuilt and repainted, and a new drop curtain will take the place of the startling work of art that has done duty there for so many years. When the workmen are through behind the proscenium arch they will leave the stage in better condition than it was the day the house was opened.
The auditorium will receive equally radical treatment. The floor will be carpeted, the woodwork will be decorated in white and gold, the walls will be frescoed in a delicate olive tint, and the chairs will be newly upholstered to harmonize with the prevailing color of the house. The lobby will be tiled and the woodwork neatly painted. An outside entrance to the balcony will be provided, with a separate ticket office for the gallery gods. The ticket office for the theatre will be in the drug store below, except of course in the evening, when the regular box office will be in use.
As to the character of the house under the new management, Mrs. Funke stipulates that it shall not be a second class place under any circumstances, and Mr. Zehrung states positively that if he cannot conduct it as a first class theatre he will not keep the management. He will spend two or three weeks in New York in May or June for the purpose of securing attractions. "If I can't get good companies," he said to THE JOURNAL, "I won't get any. The house will stay dark rather than be opened for inferior entertainments. Now don't understand me to mean that we won't sometimes put in shows at less than first class prices. Nearly every first class theatre does that and we will do it now and then. But all shows must be good and worth the price charged at the doors, or they don't get into the Funke."
The contracts for renovating the house are now in process of completion and the work will begin without delay. The opening will probably be in August.
It is unncessary to say that the whole community will watch Mr. Zehrung's new venture with undisguised interest. He has lived in Lincoln practically all his life, and for ten years has been a very prominent young man in social and business circles. He has a wide theatrical acquaintance, due to his former activity as a member of the Order of Elks and to his steady and intelligent patronage of the theatre. It is conceded that there is nobody in Lincoln not actively connected with theatrical affairs who is better qualified by taste and experience as a patron to take the management of a theatre. His friends do not hesitate to predict that he will make a notable success as a manager, because he knows so thoroughly what the people want and what they ought to have.
Miss Morton's play, "Brother John," which is produced by Mr. Crane , shows life in a little Connecticut town and at gay and fashionable Long Branch, and all of its contrasts are sharply drawn. Cotton's lines —
suggested the play to Miss Morton. The principal character is John Hackett , a hat manufacturer, living in Bethel, Conn. He has accumulated a fortune and is entirely wrapped up in his little family, consisting of an elder sister, a younger sister, and his little brother Bobby . Money has not altered his ways or manners a little bit and he has a big, honest heart with a place in it for everyone. His younger sister Sophie has been attending a New York boarding school and upon her return home she finds the humdrum existence she is compelled to lead very disagreeable. She longs to see the gay world and to go to balls and parties, and soon her elder sister catches the infection. By the aid of the forewoman of John's factory, a former gentlewoman with whom John is unconsciously enamored, they secure their brother's permission to go on to Long Branch. The first act closes with the little family receiving John's permission to go to the seaside. The second act finds the family esconsced in a palatial cottage at Long Branch doing the honors to a crowd of sycophants and people who laugh at the little Yankees in secret. John visits them. He orders them home, but they defy him. Mortified and about to go alone, he is nearly struck dumb with astonishment to see Bobby, his little brother, who has never drank in his life, in a beastly state of intoxication. He then determines to remain and protect his family. The third act takes place during the progress of a lawn party, and finds the family paying the price of their folly. The fourth act finds the family back home, having learned the lesson that in pursuing pleasure away from their own fireside they were chasing a deluded phantom. In John Hackett Mr. Crane is said to have a character different from any he has ever attempted to portray heretofore. He is allowed to play on all the strings leading to the human heart, and there are occasional touches of pathos in his work which tell effectively. In Mr. Crane's support are Messrs. George Backus , Joseph Wheelock jr. , William Herbert , J. K. Padgett , George F. DeVere , Gus DeVere , Miss Lizzie Hudson Collier , Annie O'Neill , Amy Busby , Mrs. Augusta Foster , Gladys Wallis , Marie Dantes and Idalene Cotton .
The coming of "The Black Crook" will recall to the old timers the "Black Crook" of 1866 with, its academic premiers, its full skirted coryphees, and its mply draped figurantes, and those who last year gazed upon the spectacular carnival at the Academy of Music, New York, with its succession of scenes, are moved to reflection on a change in the times. Prior to the initial production of Charles Barras' spectacle, there had never been a regular ballet of any size in this country. Lolo Montez had flitted across the stage and Fanny Ellsler had danced a few characteristic steps, but a complete ballet with prima assoluta, secondi and ballerini was unknown. The little the public had seen of women in tights was confined to the performance of "Mazeppa," in which either an Adah Isaacs Menken , a Kate Fisher or a Leo Hudson was lashed to the back of a wild, untamed Barbary steed. The sensation can be imagined when all at once the stage of Niblo's garden, New York, was filled with what seemed to be myriads of women in short skirts, in trunks and in tights. It was a beautiful spectacle and it appealed to the senses as no theatrical performance ever had before.
For two years the theatre was filled. The moralist inveighed, the pulpits thundered, but all this served only to advertise the show. The fame of the "Black Crook" spread over the land and it became one of New York's attractions. Today there are family matinees given and even children are allowed to bite of a fruit which a quarter of a century ago was forbidden.
Miss Tempest's real name is Marie Hetherington , and she never supposed that necessity would force her upon the stage. Such was the case, however, as her grandmother died when she was twenty and it was then developed that the old lady's income was only a life's interest in her husband's estate. Her guardian, while unable to do much for her financially, gave her a charming home at Kensington, to which she returned after having completed her musical studies at Paris. She had become an expert linguist, and in fact is as thoroughly an educated woman as the Parisian finishing schools could turn out. After her return to London she met Garcia, the great singing master.
Miss Tempest's voice, though never remarkably strong, has always possessed qualities that never fail to charm. Her first appearance was a fair success, but London did not go crazy over her. "Dorothy" was then being presented to London with only a fair success. Marion Hood was the original Dorothy, but she did not suit and Miss Tempest was engaged. Her success was instantaneous. She played Dorothy over nine hundred times.
Three years ago she came to America and was seen in "The Red Hussar" and several other operas that were being presented by the Duff opera company . When "The Fencing Master" was secured from Messrs. De Koven and Smith only one woman on the operatic stage could be found to look, sing and act the role and that was Miss Tempest.
The story of
begins at Subaya, a suburb of
Manilla, the principal seaport of
Luzon, one of the Philippine islands.
— makes his debut as a bull fighter and is ignominiously vanquished. He is in love with
— the keeper of the village inn, who has promised to marry him should
he win fame as a toreador and who in the temporary absence of Pedro has become fascinated
a rival toreador, whose noble bearing and jaunty manner has captivated the
hearts of all the pretty senoritas in the village. By some means all the
characters get on board the same ship, bound for Spain, which is wrecked on the
coast of Borneo during a furious storm.
The people are made a prisoners by the savage natives of the island, who carry
them to Kutching, the capital of the island, in which city is located the palace
while Pedro and Paquita have been left in a large cask labelled "rum" in the jungle by some natives who had anticipated a royal drunk on the supposed contents, but were frightened away by the roar of a tiger. The hero and his sweetheart finally escape from the cask, and a little later they arrive at the king's palace disguised as Chinese fakirs, where they discover the remainder of the party as captives and under sentence of death. Pedro determines to rescue his friends and he learns that Panjandrum, the king, has really been dead for six months, but owing to an inconvenient law, which provides that in the event of the death of the monarch the grand vizier, with all of his majesty's wives and numerous slaves, must be sacrificed at the obsequies, the wily vizier very sensibly keeps the demise of Panjandrum a profound secret, and when it was absolutely necessary for the king to make a public appearance a stuffed effigy bearing a marked resemblance to the dead ruler was exhibited to the people. Pedro learns of this canker worm in the grand vizier's breast and makes use of his knowledge to some purpose. After a brief negotiation, Pedro agrees to impersonate the dead monarch. He makes his first appearance on the throne at the feast of the sun, and is transformed into a young king by Paquita, his sweetheart. This delights the populace, who believe in the supernatural, and who have crowded about the place to witness the festivities. Pedro retains possession of the throne and pardons the grand vizier upon condition that the Spanish captives are returned in safety to their native home.
A Paris dispatch says that the most important theatrical event of the past month is the very unexpected but undeniable fact that the anarchist bomb outrages have caused the receipts of Paris playhouses to fall off in the most extraordinary way. The fear that some anarchist may take it into his head to throw a bomb in a theatre prevents many Parisians from going to places of amusement, and with the exception of the Vaudeville, where Sardou's "Mme. Sans Gene" continues to draw full houses, the theatres are all playing to empty benches.
The fun began at the circus yesterday afternoon. The garden was crowded, and when a fractious elephant, with the usual small, intelligent but vicious eyes, rushed up a gangway the multitude on either side scattered with great celerity. The pachyderm evidently wished to become acquainted with his audience, and he ambled up, trunk in air, and trumpeted defiance at his keepers, who kept jabbing him, but to no purpose. The brute got back of the boxes, and he may be there yet for all I know. One woman who sat near me jumped up so suddenly that her pocketbook flew out of her hand into the very path of the elephant. Did she shriek and fly forthwith? Yes, she shrieked, but did not fly. She stooped over and grabbed her property from the very jaws of death. It reminded me of the story of the Scotchman who saw a guinea on the other side of sheol. But he jumped for it, all the same.
When Mr. Stetson built his magnificent residence on Commonweatlth avenue he stocked it with works of art of which he knew little. A visitor one day was admiring his collection, and approaching a statue said: "Ah, you have an amazon here, I see!" Remembering his bad break about Michael Angelo, whom he wished to discharge from his corps of scene painters, Mr. Stetson took a safe ground this time, and merely replied in a non committal tone, "Yes, that's Amazon's latest!"
Mr. Frank C. Zehrung: Frank Connell Zehrung (1858-1942) was born in Cedar Rapids, IA, the son of John and Mary Connell Zehrung. According to Who's Who in Nebraska, he was educated at Lincoln High School and at the University of Nebraska. He was in the drug store business from 1879 to 1897, and managed the Funke Opera House from 1894 to 1900. In partnership with L. M. Crawford he managed the Oliver Theatre (formerly the Lansing Theatre) from 1899 to 1917. He married Jessie L. Voris (d. 1944) in 1911. He was active in civic affairs, as a member of the Lincoln Chamber of Commerce, the Rotary club, and the Order of Elks, and he served as five terms as mayor of Lincoln: 1913-15, 1921-27, and 1931-33.
Zehrung's drug store was at 1213 O St. until 1894.
The Funke Opera House was built in 1885 by Fred Funke (d. 1890), a Lincoln wholesale
cigar, wine, and liquor dealer, on the southwest corner of 12th and O St. Until the
Lansing Theatre was built it was the largest and finest theater in town. The first
manager was Ed A. Church (d. 1927), followed by Robert McReynolds; Frank Zehrung managed
it briefly, from July 1889 to January 1890, when L. M. Crawford took over. Zehrung
resumed management in 1894. The building housed shops on the ground floor and offices
in parts of the upper floors, as well as the theater itself.
The Funke Opera House, Lincoln, Nebraska, late nineteenth century.
The Funke Opera House, Lincoln, Nebraska, late nineteenth century.
Order of Elks: The Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks originated in a drinking club, the Jolly Corks, founded in 1867 by Charles Vivian, an Englishman who had immigrated to New York. When a member of the club died, leaving his family destitute, the members decided to establish the Elks as a fraternal organization to help those in need; fundraising was often through the profits from entertainments sponsored by the Elks. The first charter was issued in 1871. The organization spread rapidly throughout the U.S. and Canada, and is still one of the largest of the fraternal orders. Membership is by invitation and was originally restricted to men.
Martha Morton: Martha Morton (1865-1925), one of the first successful American woman playwrights, was born and educated in New York city. Her success came early: Cora Tanner played in the twenty-one-year-old Morton's The Refugee's Daughter (1886). Others in a string of successful, if not lasting, plays were The Merchant (1888), Geoffrey Middleton (1890), Brother John (1892), His Wife's Father (1893), A Fool of Fortune (1895), A Bachelor's Romance (1895), Uncle Dick (1896), Her Lord and Master (1899), and a few others in the early twentieth century. In the early 1890s her plays were produced by William H. Crane and his company. Morton married Hermann Conheim of New York in 1897.
"Brother John": Brother John (1892), by Martha Morton (1865-1925), opened in New York in March 1893. William H.Crane created the role of the down-to-earth Yankee hat manufacturer who rescues his brother and sisters from the entanglements created by their desire to live the fashionable life. Cather described the plot in detail in her April 1, 1894 column.
William H. Crane: William H. Crane (1845-1928) was one of the best known comic actors of his day. He partnered with Stuart Robson from 1877-1889, then took off on an independent career. Popular as he was in the 1890s, his greatest success was yet to come, in the title role in David Harum (1900), a role he recreated in the silent film (1915). He appeared in other silent films, notably as Buster Keaton's father in Keaton's first starring role, The Saphead (1920).
Humorist George Ade, classing Crane with such actors as Joseph Jefferson, said, "William H. Crane is another veteran of the stage who holds the regard of the public. It knows him as the kind of man we should like to invite up to our house to meet the 'folks'" (Century, December 1910). Critic Lewis C. Strang, who also compared Crane with Jefferson, said "He is a character comedian, whose one character is himself. His is a whole-souled, frank, and genial personality . . . that suggest shrewdness and generosity, keen good sense, and tender-hearted chivalry. . . . His command of pathos is not so sure" (Famous American Actors of the Day in America  149, 151). Crane wrote a volume of reminiscences, Footprints and Echoes (1927).
Image in the New York Public Library Digital Gallery.
William H. Crane
Nathaniel Cotton (1705 or 1707-1788) was a British physician and poet. Stanza three
of Nathaniel Cotton's "The Fireside" runs:
If solid happiness we prize,
Within our breast this jewel lies,
And they are fools who roam.
The world has nothing to bestow;
From our own selves our joys must flow,
And that dear hut, our home.
John Hackett: In Martha Morton's Brother John (1893), John Hackett is a sensible and prosperous hat manufacturer in Connecticut. His younger brother and sisters yearn for a more fashionable life, so he gives them money to go to a New York resort, where they meet with various shady characters. Hackett must come to the resort to rescue his siblings and show them there's no place like home. The plot is described in more detail in Cather's April 1, 1894 column.
Bethel, Connecticut: Once part of the late seventeenth-century town of Danbury, near the southwest corner of Connecticut, Bethel was organized first as a separate parish in 1759, then as a town in 1855. Hat manufacturing was one of the major industries in the town from the late eighteenth century into the mid-twentieth century (the last hat factory closed in 1968).
George Backus: George Backus played minor or supporting roles in many New York plays from 1889 to 1919. He soon joined William H. Crane's company, playing in its production of Martha Morton's Geoffrey Middleton in 1891. By the later 1890s he had left Crane and appeared in sentimental and costume dramas such as Way Down East (1898) and Janice Meredith (1900). By the mid-teens he appeared in silent films, playing the father to Douglas Fairbanks in Habit of Happiness (1916) and to Clara Kimball Young in Shirley Kaye (1917).Backus created the role of Edward Kidd in Brother John; the New York Times reviewer said, "Mr. George Backus, a deserving young actor, has a trying role, chiefly as a 'feeder,' with one or two little scenes that he manages to turn to good account" (26 March 1894).
Joseph Wheelock jr.: Joseph Wheelock, Jr., made his New York debut in William H. Crane's production of Martha Morton's Brother John (1893), playing the younger brother, Bobby Hackett. He appeared in various historical and society plays until c. 1906. Joseph Wheelock, Sr., appeared on the New York stage from 1872 until 1908.
William Herbert: William Herbert's New York stage career ran from 1882 to 1907. He played with William H. Crane's company in the early 1890s in For Money (1892) and On Probation (1893), but his name does not appear in the original cast list of Brother John (1893). It is likely that he replaced either J. H. Gilmour as Henry de Ruyter, or Joseph W. Shannon as Mr. Van Sprague for the road tour of the play.
J. K. Padgett: J. K. Padgett began his New York stage career in 1876; he played with Margaret Mather in Peg Woffington in 1889, then joined William H. Crane's company, playing with him in The Senator (1890) and other plays until 1894. He played the character of Wolf Hopkins in Brother John (1893).
George F. DeVere: George F. DeVere began playing on the New York stage in 1871. He joined William H. Crane's company about 1890, in The Senator, and remained in the company until 1900, when he played in Crane's greatest hit, David Harum. The last play listed for him in the New York Times dramatic review index is The Right of Way in 1907. He played Captain Van Sprague in Crane's production of Brother John (1893). Odell notes that DeVere celebrated fifty years on the stage during the run of the play (Annals of the New York Stage, XV: 303).
Gus DeVere: Gus DeVere (listed in the New York cast of Brother John as G. D. DeVere, and in other productions as G. V., Gus, and Gus V DeVere) was a member of Crane's company for four New York plays. He played Mr. Flynn in Brother John (1893).
Miss Lizzie Hudson Collier: Lizzie Hudson Collier (c. 1864-1924) began her New York stage career in 1891, and played the following year with Nat Goodwin in A Gilded Fool (1892). She then joined William H. Crane's company, playing Hettie Bolan in Brother John (1893), and in two other plays in 1894. She did not return to the New York stage again until 1904, appearing last in Hedda Gabler in 1918. In the meantime she became the leading lady of the New Grand Opera Stock Company in Pittsburgh. Cather became friends with Collier in Pittsburgh, and admired her as a person and as an actress. Backstage with Collier one evening, Cather met Isabelle McClung, her lifelong friend.
Annie O'Neill: Anne O'Neill appeared frequently on the New York stage in the late 1880s, often appearing in Irish-themed plays such as Waddy Googans (1888) and MacNooney's Visit (1889). She appeared with Alexander Salvini in 1890, but thereafter she was a part of William H. Crane's company. She played the part of Sophie Hackett in Crane's production of Brother John (1893); Odell listed her, with Amy Busby and Gladys Wallis, as one of the "very pretty girls" of the cast (Annals of the New York Stage, XV: 302). Her last appearance in New York was in Sweet and Twenty in 1901.
Amy Busby: Amy Busby, formerly of Rochester, NY, was a member of Willam H. Crane's company from 1891 to 1894; she played Helen Van Sprague in his production of Martha Morton's Brother John (1893). In 1894 she had a supporting role in Richard Mansfield's production of Shaw's Arms and the Man (1894). Odell listed her, with Anne O'Neill and Gladys Wallis, as one of the "very pretty girls" of the cast (Annals of the New York Stage, XV:302).
Mrs. Augusta Foster: Augusta Foster made her New York debut in Virginius in 1884. She was a member of William H. Crane's company in the 1889 production of On Probation, and remained in it through 1894. Foster played Beck Hackett in Brother John (1893). The New York Times review said of her and the role that Foster "long associated with 'heavy' parts in tragedy, is burdened with an impossible caricature of New England spinsterhood, which seems to be devoid of a glimpse of humor, but which she bears with a zeal that should not go unappreciated" (21 March 1893).
Gladys Wallis: Gladys Wallis appeared on the New York stage in Crane's company first in For Money in 1892 and in his subsequent productions. She played the role of Maggie Rolan in Brother John (1893); the New York Times reviewer listed her as one of the most popular players, one who "deserved quite all the applause [she] received" (21 March 1893). She last appeared on the New York stage in three plays in 1898. Odell listed her, with Anne O'Neill and Amy Busby, as one of the "very pretty girls" of the cast (Annals of the New York Stage, XV:302).
Marie Dantes: Marie Dantes appeared in New York with William H. Crane's production of Martha Morton's Brother John in 1893, where she played Mrs. Van Sprague, and toured with the company. Her only other New York stage appearance, according to the index of the New York Times dramatic reviews, was in The Belle of Bohemia in 1900.
Idalene Cotton: Idalene Cotton was a member of William H. Crane's company in his productions of Martha Morton's Brother John in 1893 and 1894, where she played the part of Marie. Later in the 1890s and early twentieth century, she appeared in New York in such plays as Miss Francis of Yale (1897), In Gay Paree (1899), Broadway Tokio (1900), and The New Yorkers (1901). Her last two appearances in New York were in 1913 and 1919. According to the Harry Ransom Humanities Research Center catalog, Idalene Cotton was the daughter of Ben Cotton, head of a touring minstrel troupe from the 1850s on.
The Black Crook: Often called the first American musical, The Black Crook opened at Niblo's Garden in New York in September 1866. It was the most expensive production of its day (sources give figures from $25,000 to $50,000), the most successful (it ran for over a year and earned over $1,000,000), and the most scandalous (for its scantily-clad chorus of a hundred French ballet girls). The Black Crook began as a melodrama by Charles Barras (1826-1873) about a crook-backed practitioner of black magic, Hertzog, who conspires with the demon Zamiel to steal the soul of the poor painter Rodolphe, who loves the beautiful foundling Aminta. When the theater in which a troupe of French ballerinas was to perform burned down, the managers offered the dancers, with their costumes and scenery, to William Wheatley, the producer of the Barras play. A libretto based on the play incorporated music, dances, and dazzling scenic effects; the show lasted for more than five hours.
The Black Crook had been revived eight times in New York, most recently at the Academy of Music from September 1, 1892 to May 20, 1894, when it ran for 306 performances and took in over $350,000. Agnes deMille choreographed a revival in 1929. Other companies revived it all over the country for the rest of the century, and it was made into a film in 1916.
The Black Crook in Lincoln in April 1894 was not that of the New York revival, which starred Morris Lipman, Charles Plunkett, Grace Tabor, and Louise Freeman.
Image of the Black Crook chorus available at the New York Public Library Digital Gallery.
Academy of Music, New York: The Academy of Music, at 14th Street between 3rd Avenue and Irving Place in New York, was built in 1854; it had an estimated seating capacity of 1300. A fire there in 1866 forced a French ballet troupe to join in with an American melodrama at Niblo's Garden, resulting in the spectacular The Black Crook. Once one of New York's best theaters, the Academy eventually housed vaudeville and movies before being torn down in 1926.
Charles Barras': Charles M. Barras (1826-1873) wrote a melodrama, The Black Crook, that was turned by the producer, William Wheatley, into a sensational musical extravaganza, the longest running theatrical production of its day. Reportedly, Barras objected to having his play turned into a libretto, so Wheatley paid him $1,500. Barras also wrote a comedy, The Modern Saint (1856).
Lolo Montez: Eliza Rosanna Gilbert (1818-1861) was born in Ireland, the daughter of an army officer; she spent a few years of early childhood in India, then was sent back to Britain for her education. In 1837, at sixteen, she eloped with Lt. Thomas Jones. The marriage lasted five years before she recreated herself as Lola Montez, the Spanish dancer in 1843. Her spider, or tarantula dance, in which she shook rubber spiders out of her clothing, offering glimpses of her body as she did so, was her most famous. Montez reportedly had liaisons with composer Franz Liszt and Alexandre Dumas the elder, and then became the mistress of Ludwig I of Bavaria in 1846. Ludwig made her Countess of Landsfeldt in 1847, but the revolution of 1848 forced him to abdicate and Montez to flee to London, where she remarried in 1849. She toured the U.S. in 1851-53, ending up in San Francisco, where she married newspaperman Patrick Hull; the couple lived for a year in Grass Valley, CA, where Montez encouraged the young Lotta Crabtree. She toured Australia in 1855-56, then returned to the U.S., where she became went on the lecture circuit. She published Anecdotes of Love, The Arts of Beauty, and a misleading autobiography, all in 1858; she died of pneumonia in New York.Image available at the New York Public Library Digital Gallery.
Fanny Ellsler: Fanny Ellsler (1810-1881) was born in Vienna, and began her career as a dancer when she was six. She made her professional debut in Naples in 1827, and her Paris debut in 1830, where her beauty, warmth, and more sensuous style quickly made her the rival of the leading classical dancer of the day, Marie Taglioni. Ellsler toured the U.S. in 1840-42, certainly one of the first professional ballerinas to do so—and one of the most successful. She returned to tour Europe before her retirement in 1851. Ellsler was noted as one of the first ballerinas to dance en pointe, and for her adaptations of folk dance to ballet; the Spanish dance, La cuchucha, introduced in 1836, was her most famous.
"Mazeppa,": Henry M. Milner adapted Lord Byron's romantic story in verse, Mazeppa (1819), into an equestrian play, Mazeppa, or, The Wild Horse of Tartary. The story is said to be based on a Polish legend. Ivan Mazeppa, a young Polish nobleman, challenges the wicked count who is betrothed to Olinska, Mazeppa's beloved, to a duel. He spares the count's life, but is betrayed; the count's men strip him naked, tie him to the back of an "untamed steed," and send the steed galloping off into the mountains. However, the horse takes Mazeppa back to his own country.
Adah Isaacs Menken:
The early life of Ada (or Adah) McCord (1835-1868) is obscure, in part because
she gave different accounts herself. Her family lived in New Orleans, where Adah danced
at the New Orleans French Opera House. She married Alexander Isaacs Mencken, in Texas
in 1856, retaining his name through several later marriages. She made her stage debut
in Louisiana in 1857 and in New York in 1859. In 1861 she made a sensational appearance
in Albany, New York, in an adaptation of Byron's Mazeppa; she played a man's role in which she was strapped, apparently naked, to a horse
as it ran across the stage. Although she appeared in other roles, often as a young
man, this was the one which the public in the U.S. and Europe wanted to see—she made
her London debut in 1864 and toured Europe in 1866. Her last performance was in London
in May 1868; she died in Paris in that August.A photograph of her as Mazeppa shows
her in what appears to be a body stocking with a light drapery around her hips.Mark
Twain described Mencken in a performance in San Francisco in 1863:Here every tongue sings the praises of her matchless grace, her supple gestures, her
charming attitudes. Well, possibly, these tongues are right. In the first act, she
rushes on the stage, and goes cavorting around after "Olinska"; she bends herself
back like a bow; she pitches headforemost at the atmosphere like a battering ram;
she works her arms, and her legs, and her whole body like a dancing-jack: her every
movement is as quick as thought; in a word, without any apparent reason for it, she
carries on like a lunatic from the beginning of the act to the end of it. At other
times she "whallops" herself down on the stage, and rolls over as does the sportive
pack-mule after his burden is removed. If this be grace then the Menken is eminently
graceful. After a while they proceed to strip her, and the high chief Pole calls for
the "fiery untamed steed"; a subordinate Pole brings in the fierce brute, stirring
him up occasionally to make him run away, and then hanging to him like death to keep
him from doing it; the monster looks round pensively upon the brilliant audience in
the theatre, and seems very willing to stand still — but a lot of those Poles grab
him and hold on to him, so as to be prepared for him in case he changes his mind.
They are posted as to his fiery untamed nature, you know, and they give him no chance
to get loose and eat up the orchestra. They strap Mazeppa on his back, fore and aft,
and face upper most, and the horse goes cantering up-stairs over the painted mountains,
through tinted clouds of theatrical mist, in a brisk exciting way, with the wretched
victim he bears unconsciously digging her heels into his hams, in the agony of her
sufferings, to make him go faster. Then a tempest of applause bursts forth, and the
curtain falls. New York Public Library Digital Gallery.University of Washington Libraries Digital Collections.
Adah Menken as Mazeppa
Adah Menken as Mazeppa
Niblo's garden, New York,: Niblo's Garden Theatre first opened by William Niblo in 1827 at the corner of Prince and Broadway. It was rebuilt several times, and by the 1840s it was one of the largest theaters in New York, seating over 3,000 people. The theater was most famous for its sensational, long-running productions of The Black Crook, but its stock company produced many spectacles and burlesques of popular dramas.
Miss Marie Tempest:
Marie Susan Hetherington (1864-1942) was born in London. She studied singing abroad,
then returned to study under Manuel Garcia, who had taught Jenny Lind. She made her
London debut in 1885, then took over the lead in Erminie (1885). She became famous when she took over the lead in Dorothy (1887) turning it into a hit that ran for 931 performances. She took The Red Hussar to New York in 1890, and toured the U.S. in operettas, including The Pirates of Penzance, The Bohemian Girl, and The Fencing Master. She was considered one of the few who could rival Lillian Russell. Tempest ceased
singing operettas in 1899, devoting herself to comedy. Noel Coward wrote a part for
her in his Hay Fever (1925). She toured until the year before her death, and was made a Dame Commander
of the Order of the British Empire in 1937.
Kensington: Kensington is a borough in the West End of London, west of the City of Westminster and northwest of Chelsea. Queen Victoria was born in Kensington Palace, which had been made a royal palace by William III. The area was home to many political men, writers, and artists.
Garcia, the great singing master: Manuel Patricio Garcia (1805-1906), a baritone, was the son of the famous Spanish singer and teacher, Manuel Garcia, who had taught Jenny Lind. The family included the celebrated soprano Maria Maliban and the great alto Pauline Viardot. The younger Garcia became an eminent teacher as well; forced to leave Paris by the Revolution of 1848, he settled in London, where he invented the modern laryngoscope in 1854.
Dorothy: Dorothy, a musical comedy with an eighteenth century setting, had music by Alfred Cellier and a libretto by Benjamin C. Stephenson, both of whom had collaborated at various time with Gilbert and Sullivan. The show opened first at the Gaiety Theatre in London, and after a few months was sold to Henry Leslie, who doctored it and reopened it at the Prince of Wales Theatre, with Marie Tempest as Dorothy and C. Hayden Coffin as Sherwood. The show ran for a record 931 performances, more than any of Gilbert and Sullivan's. There were frequent tours and revivals, including an American production with Lillian Russell.
Marion Hood: Soprano Sarah Ann Isaac (1853-1912) made her debut in Hull, England, as Marion Isaac, in 1876; she married the theatre owner, a Mr. Hunt, then went to study in London. She joined the D'Oyly Carte company, where W.S. Gilbert heard her and gave her the role of Mabel in Pirates of Penzance in 1880, a role that made her famous. She married a second time, but resumed her career in 1881, appearing in London and on tour. From 1885 to 1891 she appeared at the Gaiety Theatre in London, chiefly in comic opera; she played Dorothy in the first production of the musical of that name in 1886.
"The Red Hussar": The Red Hussar; a comedy-opera in three acts opened at the Lyric Theatre in London on 23 November 1889. The libretto was by H.P. Stephens, the music by Edward Solomon. Marie Tempest played Kitty Carroll and Ben Davies was Ralph Rodney, the romantic lead; C. Hayden Coffin, who had co-starred with Tempest in Dorothy, played Sir Harry Leighton. Tempest brought the play with her as part of her American tour in 1890.
the Duff opera company: The Duff Opera Company, managed by J. C. Duff, was one of the largest and most-respected touring companies. Marie Tempest and Lillian Russell were both associated with it in the 1890s.
The Fencing Master: The Fencing Master, with music by Reginald de Koven and libretto by Harry Bache Smith (who had also done the book for Robin Hood), opened 14 November 1892 at the Casino Theatre in New York, and ran for 120 performances. The heroine, Francesca, is disguised as a boy for most of the play; she sings one of the more popular songs, "Ah yes, I love thee."
De Koven: Reginald de Koven (1859-1920) was born in the USA, but educated in England, then went to Europe to study music before returning to the US in 1882 to go into business in Chicago. His successful real estate and commercial ventures enabled him to return to his first love, music. He is best known as the composer of romantic operettas, most notably Robin Hood (1890), which contains his most popular song, "Oh Promise Me," which quickly became a favorite at weddings.
Smith: Harry Bache Smith (1860-1936) became a reporter, then a music critic for the Chicago Daily News; he began writing musical plays in 1874-his first operetta was produced by Fay Templeton's company-and then burlesques for the Chicago Opera company. His collaboration with Reginald de Koven began with Begum (1887) and included Robin Hood (1890) and The Fencing Master (1892). A prolific librettist, Smith contributed the book or lyrics to 123 Broadway shows, working with Irving Berlin, Jerome Kern, Victor Herbert, Franz Lehar, John Phillip Sousa, and many others. In the later 1920s and early 1930s he evaluated plays and stories for the Warner Bros. movie studio.
DeWolf Hopper: William DeWolf Hopper (1858-1935) made his stage debut in 1878. At 6 feet 2 inches he was considered too tall for serious acting roles, and his big bass singing voice drew him to musical theater; he starred in The Black Hussar in 1885, and had his first pairing with Della Fox in Castles in the Air in 1890, followed by Wang in 1891 and Panjandrum in 1893; he starred in many more Broadway shows. One of his most popular acts was his recitation of Thayer's poem, "Casey at the Bat," which he helped to make popular; he recited it at curtain calls, recorded it in 1906, and performed it in a silent movie in 1916, and on the radio.
Hopper married six times, most notably to actress Elda Furry, best known as the feared gossip columnist Hedda Hopper. His son by her, William DeWolf Hopper, Jr., played Paul Drake on the 1950s Perry Mason televion series.
Della Fox: Della May Fox (1870-1913) was born in St. Louis, and played in children's theatrical productions, and as a child performer in a James O'Neill play. She starred as the child heroine in a touring production of Editha's Burglar, based on a Frances Hodgson Burnett story, then her soprano voice enabled her to join the Bennett and Moulton Opera Company. Her voice and small size made her the choice for the role of Blanche, opposite the tall, bass-voiced DeWolf Hopper, in Castles in the Air (1890), and she became one of the biggest stars on Broadway, with Wang (1891), Panjandrum (1893), The Little Trooper (1894), and The Wedding Day (1897) with Lillian Russell. She was famous for 'boy' roles and later as "the girl with the curl"-a spit-curl in the middle of her forehead. A serious illness about this time (rumors of alcohol and drug abuse also circulated) took her from the stage for a time before she returned in vaudeville in 1900; that year she married Jacob Levy, a diamond broker, and retired for a time. She returned to the stage in 1912 and gave her last performance in April 1913, two months before her death in June 1913.
Borneo: Borneo, a great island on the equator, south of the Philippines, was still largely unexplored by Europeans in the 1890s. Three of the four parts of the island were affiliated with Great Britain, but the largest part belonged to the Dutch. The land is mostly mountainous and heavily wooded; the shallow seas about the island allowed for few accessible ports except at river mouths. The island was believed to be rich in diamonds, gold and lesser minerals, as well as spices.
anarchist bomb outrages: After the failure of various insurrections, anarchists turned to individual acts of terrorism to demonstrate the vulnerability of established governments. Tsar Alexander of Russia was assassinated by an anarchist bomb in 1881, inspiring other such acts; the movement strengthened in the 1890s. In France, the Chamber of Deputies was bombed in December 1893; a Paris café was bombed on February 12, 1894, and other street bombings followed. On 24 June 1894, the president of France, Sadi Carnot, was assassinated by an Italian anarchist, leading to ruthless reprisals by the French authorities, effectively shutting down anarchist activity in France. However, anarchists killed the prime minister of Spain in 1897, the empress Elizabeth of Austria in 1898, Umberto I of Italy in 1900 and President McKinley of the U.S. in 1901.
Sardou: Victorien Sardou (1831-1908) was one of the dominant playwrights of the nineteenth century; his influence was felt far beyond his native France in the many translations and adaptations made of his plays. An exponent of the well-made play, his work seemed to become dated quickly after his death. His first play was produced in 1854, but quickly withdrawn, and he suffered difficulties until a friend interested the actress Mlle Déjazet. Some of his best-known works include A Scrap of Paper (1860); Diplomacy; Fedora (1882) and La Tosca (1887), both written for Sarah Bernhardt, and both made into operas; Frou-frou; and Madame Sans-Gêne (1893), which was made into an opera and two silent movies, one with Gloria Swanson. Sardou was elected to the French Academy in 1878.
Mme. Sans Gene: Madame Sans-Gêne (1893), a play by Victorien Sardou, opened at the Vaudeville Theatre in Paris, starring Gabrielle Réjane as Catherine. Set during the French Revolution, the play concerns an outspoken laundress, one of whose soldier-clients is Napoleon. Eventually her sergeant-husband becomes a marshal of France, but Catherine's outspoken ways get her into trouble, and Napoleon suggests a divorce. Catherine's courage and wit confound the emperor, and solve the problems of her friends as well.
Barnum: P. T. Barnum (1810-1891) made his name first as an exhibitor of such characters as a woman who claimed to be George Washington's 161-year-old African American nurse and the midget Tom Thumb. He also brought singer Jenny Lind to America for a fabulously successful tour. His American Museum in New York was a huge showplace of oddities, some of them fraudulent.In 1870 Barnum organized a spectacular circus, which he soon called "The Greatest Show on Earth." It was one of the first to travel by rail all over the country. In 1888 Barnum merged his circus with that of James A. Bailey (1847-1906).
Madison Square garden: P.T. Barnum converted a train depot to a Hippodrome for his circus in 1871; W.H. Vanderbilt rebuilt it as an arena and renamed it Madison Square Garden, for its site at 26th Street and Madison Avenue. Stanford White designed a new building which opened in 1890; it was torn down in 1925. Two other buildings have borne the name, but the present Madison Square Garden is no longer on Madison Square.
Recorder: The New York Recorder was a short-lived (approximately 1891-96) daily newspaper founded by Joseph Palmer Knapp, who later owned Collier's and other publishing enterprises. The Recorder was the first New York newspaper to install a color press and to have a woman's page.
Manager John Stetson: John Stetson was one of the most important theater managers in Boston; his Mammoth Novelty Company was based at the Howard Athenaeum in the 1870s, but by the 1880s he was one of the few managers licensed to produce Gilbert and Sullivan's operettas. He managed Booth's Theater for a time, and sold the rights to produce Monte Cristo to James O'Neill in 1883. By the end of the 1880s he was associated with the Globe Theater in Boston. Elizabeth Marbury, in her memoirs, My Crystal Ball (1932), said he had many interests besides theater, some unsavory, and that he had little education, except for enough arithmetic ability to be able to always turn a profit.
Michael Angelo: Michelangelo Buonarroti Simoni (1475-1564) of Florence is one of the most influential artistic figures of the Renaissance. He studied briefly with Ghirlandaio (1448-94), but considered himself largely self-taught. He was primarily interested in sculpture, but he was also a painter, architect, and poet. His genius was recognized early: he was the first artist to have biographies published in his lifetime. An early masterpiece is his Pietà (1498); another masterpiece is his stature of David (1504). He was commissioned to paint the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel in 1504; working alone, he finished in 1512. He returned to the Chapel to paint the last judgment on the wall (1536-1541). In 1546 he was commissioned to rebuild St. Peter's itself, a project not completed until after his death.