The audience which saw the "Devil's Auction" at the Lansing last night was one of the happiest crowds ever gathered in Lincoln. It was of course top-heavy, the gallery element predominating. The gallery was full, so full it could not contain itself, and at the end of the first act echoed with cries of "Put him out!" It was a glorious audience, downstairs and up. The kind of an audience that wears tuberoses and large canes and migrates between acts. It was a classical audience, the kind that can't stand a specialty performance without something elevating and classical, something Shakespearean from across the street. It was a wildly enthusiastic audience; it enjoyed itself and it got its money's worth.
The great Lincoln public can remain perfectly cool and indifferent to Chopin's polonaise or Sieverking's pastorale, but over a ballet or a clog dance it loses its head, and when a clown uses his handkerchief to the accompaniment of a bass horn it has raptures and rhapsodies of childish delight. It is pleasant to see a Lincoln audience happy; it is so naive and gleeful, it sports and gambols so.
The "Devil's Auction" deals with all people and all climes and with all history, both sacred and profane. It introduces scenes from Milton's "Paradise Lost," and scenes in a patrol wagon. The only way to define the limits of the plot is to say that it deals with the works of nature and that the scene is laid in the universe. The actors and their acts were numerous and all the many specialties were executed and got out of the way with admirable quickness and dispatch. Like all successful spectacular performances it was touch and go, a kaleidoscope in which the greatest number of combinations and colors are produced in the shortest possible length of time. The actors, of course had the usual unpleasant streaks of red across the eyes and spoke in the rapid, tremulous, staccatto tones common in spectacular productions. The best feature of the play was the new song and dance "On the Rialto." Indeed, it was better than most songs and dances. It introduced all the types of actors and actresses who are now "at liberty" on the Rialto in New York. There was the old tragedinne in her faded velvets and faded complexion and faded hair, and the plump soubrette and the leading man in his battered silk hat, the specialty man with his red necktie and all the rest of them. The Salvation army was called into service again; it is not new at all, but in this case its size more than justified the age. Some of the dancing was very good. The two premieres of the dance, Signorita Concettina Chitten and Signorita Emilia Bartoletti , were graceful and skilful. They had good necks and shoulders and chests, and after awhile, at a very late period, almost too late, their dresses began. A dress may seem a trivial thing to speak of, but when there is so very little of them they are not trivial at all, but most important. One had to use an opera glass to find these dresses at all. They recalled that poem of Tennyson's beginning, "Sweet and low, sweet and low." Signorita Adele Amor , in spite of her very sentimental and amorous name, was quite a well-behaved dancer, though from the remarkable and not strictly beautiful development of the popliteal muscles she has evidently been riding a bicycle. She was more moderate in the matter of thoracic display and attended strictly to business, and it was evident that either her mamma or her manager had taught her good manners.
Devil's Auction: The 1867 spectacular play, The Devil's Auction, attempted to rival the success of The Black Crook. It was revived, though apparently not as often as The Black Crook. Posters attributing The Devil's Auction to Charles H. Yale survive, but WorldCat does not list any texts, perhaps because the plot was only a pretext for various specialty acts; several posters note "Everything new but the title."
Lansing Theatre: The Lansing Theater, on the southwest corner of 13th and P Streets, was built in 1891, displacing the Funke Opera House as the largest and finest theater in Lincoln. The owners were J.F. Lansing (b. 1842), a Lincoln real estate man, and his brother-in-law Henry Oliver (b. 1857); Edward A. Church was the manager. According to the program of the opening week (November 23-28, 1891) the auditorium consisted of the orchestra and parquet seating on the main level, with dress circle at the rear and sides; three tiers of five boxes each and six loges were at the sides. Above were the balcony and the gallery. With standing room, about 2500 people could be present.
The building also housed offices, including that of Cather's friend and fellow reviewer, Dr. Julius H. Tyndale. It was renamed the Oliver Theater in 1898.
Chopin: Frédéric Chopin (1810-1849), born in Poland, was a child prodigy on the piano and as a composer. After his musical education in Poland, he went to Paris in 1831, where he established himself as a pianist playing his own compositions, and then as a teacher, performing in public less and less. His affair with George Sand (which she depicted in the autobiographical Lucrezia Floriani) began in 1838, but his health—he was diagnosed with consumption—began to deteriorate. However, many of his greatest works were composed in summers at her home in Nohant over most of the next nine years.
polonaise: The polonaise originated as a seventeenth century Polish folk dance, elaborated by the Polish aristocracy into a grand processional dance in three quarter time in the eighteenth century. In the nineteenth century it became an instrumental form popular throughout Europe.
Two of the most popular of Chopin's polonaises are the "Military" polonaise in A major, opus 40, no. 1, and the polonaise in A-flat major, opus 53, sometimes called the "Heroic" polonaise.
Mr. Martinus Sieveking: Dutch composer and pianist Martinus Sieveking (1867-1950) was born in Amsterdam, where he studied with composer Julius Röntgen. He was a prolific composer, though many of his pieces are described as "salon music." However, he was also a talented arranger: many of his versions of Chopin's music are still standard. He toured America in 1895-96, performing at Carnegie Hall in New York. A tall, handsome man, he became a close friend of the famous strongman, Eugen Sandow (1867-1925), developing his body according to Sandow's principles. In the first quarter of the twentieth century, Sieveking taught piano in New York and composed and performed music for player piano companies. He died in Pasadena, California.
Sieveking taught at the conservatory of music in Lincoln from 1893-95.
John Milton: English poet John Milton (1608-1674) was educated at Cambridge University. A Protestant, he spent years writing on behalf of the Parliamentary side in the English civil war and for Cromwell's republican government. Increasing blindness forced him to dictate his works from 1654 on. After the restoration of the monarchy, Milton devoted himself to his poetry, publishing the epic Paradise Lost in 1667, Paradise Regained in 1671, and a play, Samson Agonistes, in 1671. His writings, both political and poetical, were influential throughout the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. He has been considered second only to Shakespeare among English poets.
Paradise Lost: John Milton's epic poem, Paradise Lost (1667), sought, as the opening said, to "justify the ways of God to man." It begins with the creation of the world and dramatizes the fall of Adam and Eve through the machinations of the fallen angel, Lucifer.
In Cather's One of Ours (1922), Mrs. Wheeler rereads part of Paradise Lost to her son Claude, who comments that Lucifer is a more interesting character than Adam, echoing an idea from the Romantic poets.
On the Rialto: WorldCat records a song, "Sui Rialto" or "On the Rialto," with words and music by P. Bucalossi, published in London in 1901. It begins, "It is a sweet evening and the moon is brightly beaming."
Rialto: The area around the Rialto theater in Union Square became New York's first theatrical district, with boardinghouses and cafes catering to stage people. Derived from the famous Rialto bridge in Venice, Rialto became a popular name for theaters and, later, movie houses.
Salvation army: Methodist minister William Booth made it his mission to minister to the poorest and most hardened people in the slums of London; the mission took on a quasi-military organization and was named the Salvation Army in 1878, with Booth as the general. Work in the United States began officially in 1880. Street corner bands and singers attracted the attention of passers-by and encouraged their attendance at revival meetings.
Signorita Emilia Bartoletti: The New York Times mentions Signorina Emilia Bartoletti as one of the premiere dancers in a comic ballet, The French Dancing School at the American Roof Garden (24 June 1894); one, or possibly all of the premiere dancers mentioned in that article came from the Eden Theatre in Paris.
Alfred Tennyson: English poet Alfred Tennyson (1809-1892) was one of the most popular poets of the nineteenth century. He was one of the twelve children of a disinherited Anglican minister, and began writing poetry as a youth. He was educated at Cambridge University, where he met Henry Hallam, the friend whose death inspired "In Memoriam." Poems Chiefly Lyrical (1830) was published while he was still an undergraduate; his second volume of poetry (1833) included "The Lady of Shalott," but was severely reviewed, and he did not publish again for ten years. His Poems (1842) made him famous, a fame secured by The Princess (1847). He was appointed poet laureate of England in 1850 and made first Baron Tennyson in 1884. Other famous poems include The Idylls of the King, based on Arthurian legend, "The Charge of the Light Brigade," "Crossing the Bar," "Maud," and "Ulysses."
Sweet and low, sweet and low: This song is from Tennyson's The Princess: Sweet and low, sweet and low,Wind of the western sea,Low, low, breathe and blow,Wind of the western sea!Over the rolling waters go,Come from the dying moon, and blow,Blow him again to me;While my little one, while my pretty one, sleeps.Sleep and rest, sleep and rest,Father will come to thee soon;Rest, rest, on mother's breast,Father will come to thee soon;Father will come to his babe in the best,Silver sails all out of the west,Under the silver moon:Sleep, my little one, sleep, my pretty one, sleep. The words were set to music by Joseph Barnby (1838-1896).