The "Fencing Master" was presented at the Lansing last night to a house crowded to its uttermost capacity. The "Fencing Master" is hardly up to De Koven's best standard, but it is funny and pretty and plotless and things happen in the usual easy, comfortable light opera fashion. Of course the centre of interest was Miss Marie Tempest as Francesca . Miss Tempest is particularly and peculiarly adapted to the part. Her face is powerful and moving rather than beautiful, and has something in it that goes straight to one's sympathies. Her jealousy and love were acted with an impassioned intensity of facial expression that is seldom seen in comic opera. Her form is exquisitely moulded and her tights become her wondrous well, so well that she ought never to appear in skirts in the last act. She is made expressly for her first costume as no other woman on the stage is, and she is not the only woman who can wear white satin gowns, nor can she wear them so well as some others. Miss Tempest's acting last night was a little paradoxical, her face and form were always very much in earnest, her voice sometimes very little so. Her "I am a woman" was the only thing she said that had any real strength in it. Of her voice it is almost impossible to speak. She was seen and not heard. It is a new thing to have the prima donna get through an opera without a single solo and only one very diminutive duet, but no one knows what a play will bring forth. Miss Tempest's first singing was very throaty and breathy, but her voice improved in the course of the play, and what she deigned to give of it was very sweet. Her fencing, over which the newspapers have raved and gone into hypnotic trances, like most of the good things of this world, was very, very brief. In fact it consisted of just three thrusts and four parries. Very much can be justly said in disapproval of Miss Tempest's work, and yet she is wonderfully effective in the role of Francesca. She is graceful and charming and touching. Her art seems to lie in her beauty of movement and her wonderful facial expression. She succeeds because she charms and captivates.
Mr. Carrol as the Duke of Milan and Mr. Tre Deinch as the court astrologer were the best men in the support and as good comedians as one often finds. Their fun was all funny and provoked gales of laughter and storms of applause. In the third act they were called back eight times, which, in Lincoln, is an almost unheard of demonstration of appreciation. The comic serenade song was especially good.
Miss Theo Dorre as the Marchesi di Gondoni sang well and expressively, but her eyes were always "in a fine frenzy rolling." If the marchesi's eyes and Filippa's mouth could be worked into a composite photograph, the artist would find a short cut to fortune. It is not fair to have two such interestingly ridiculous women on the stage at once, it is like watching a two-ringed circus.
The chorus was strong and sang well and was very ugly. Miss Tempes was delightful, her support abominable.