"Pinafore" drew a crowded house at the Lansing last night and the dress circle and balcony were filled with palpitating papas and mammas. They were all there, even to the sisters and the cousins and the aunts, all a little nervous and very enthusiastic. People never realize the dignity and importance of the stage so much as when the actors happen to be of their own family. When at last the curtains rose the temperature on both sides of the footlights went up alarmingly.
The chorus was strong and sang with vim and spirit. The chorus singers had been carefully trained and showed no inclination to drag.
Miss Josie Hoffman sang the role of Buttercup . When Miss Hoffman made her debut in the "Chimes of Normandy" last spring she showed unusual talent; last night this was even more marked. Miss Hoffman's voice is limited, but there is no doubt that she has the instinct of almost unconsciously suiting actions to words, of using her hands and feet and head as though they belonged to her and were not borrowed or rented for the occasion. She did not drop her role when the others had the centre of the stage and then hastily put it on again when her cue came. She acted all the time with vigor and considerable individuality and just that little dash of assertiveness which is to the comedienne what soul is to the tragedienne. Her speaking voice is particularly good, and in singing it is her manner and expression that please more than her tones. The oily demureness with which she informed the audience that "she mixed those children up" and the exultant persistency with which she insisted that "he said damn it" were good instances of how amazingly much may be done with a rather ordinary voice when it has spirit behind it.
Miss Adele Simons sang Josephine better than she acted it, but she sang it very well indeed. Her voice contains as much quantity and quality as the part demands. Her speaking voice, however, was light and ineffectual, and especially in the first act her manner lacked the dignity and reserve to be expected of a high-born maiden very desperately in love. In the second act, under the exhilarating influences of a charming gown and a prospective elopement, she grew more spirited, and into her last scenes with Ralph Rakestraw she put considerable action. The "fond embracing" act, which most amateurs do so abominably, she did gracefully and naturally, "and it's greatly to her credit."
Mr. Hayden Meyer made a handsome Ralph Rakestraw and sang with considerable feeling. Mr. K. W. Tuttle did Dick Deadeye and himself credit, and succeeded in producing more tears than many emotional actors. Mr. Arthur Kellum rather overdid the English insipioddess, and his manner which was meant to be stiff was instead rather awkward. His voice was not sufficient to stand the strain of his one small solo. Mr. Carl Tucker put a good deal of action into his part and enunciated distinctly, but he used his hands rather too elaborately and in the first act the excessively low cut of his jacket called to mind the lines of the old song: "Her brow is like the snowdrift, Her throat is like the swan." Particularly the last line.
Pinafore: Gilbert and Sullivan's fourth comic opera, HMS Pinafore; or, The Lass that Loved a Sailor, opened in London in 1878. It became tremendously popular throughout the English speaking world, appearing in many pirated versions by professionals, amateurs, and juvenile companies.
The plot concerns several characters who love people of other ranks; Josephine, the daughter of the captain of the Pinafore, loves a common sailor on her father's ship, Ralph Rakestraw. However, her father, Captain Corcoran, who loves the humble Buttercup, wants Josephine to marry Sir Joseph Porter, the First Lord of the Admiralty. All turns out well with the revelation that Buttercup had switched Corcoran and Rakestraw as babies; thus Rakestraw becomes the captain, eligible to marry Josephine, and Corcoran becomes a humble seaman—and free to marry the Buttercup.
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.
Dress circle: The lowest tiers of seats in a theater, the dress circle, contained the most expensive seats; it was so-called because people sitting there were expected to be in evening dress.
the sisters and the cousins and the aunts: In Gilbert and Sullivan's HMS Pinafore, Sir Joseph, the First Lord of the Admiralty, comes on board the ship with a large assortment of female relatives. His song begins:
I am the monarch of the sea, The ruler of the Queen's Navee, Whose praise Great Britain loudly chants.
And his relatives chime in with a refrain: "And we are his sisters, and his cousins, and his aunts!"
Jessie Hoffman: This was probably Jessie Hoffman, who was listed in the 1895 Lincoln city directory as a music teacher. She lived with her mother, Rosa Hoffman, widow of D.S. Hoffman, at 1344 J Street; she is no longer listed, at least under this name, in the 1897 directory.
Buttercup: In Gilbert and Sullivan's HMS Pinafore, Little Buttercup, described in the dramatis personae as a "Portsmouth Bumboat Woman," rows out to anchored ships to sell tobacco, sweets, and other small goods to the sailors. She loves Captain Corcoran; she was also the nurse who had switched Rakestraw and Corcoran as babies. Her most famous song begins,
For I'm called Little Buttercup—dear Little Buttercup, Though I could never tell why, But still I'm called Buttercup—poor little Buttercup, Sweet Little Buttercup I!
The Chimes of Normandy: Robert Planquette's most popular operetta, Les Cloches de Corneville (The Bells of Corneville), is usually known in English as The Chimes of Normandy. The French libretto was based on a play by Charles Gaber, who was a librettist along with Louis Clairville. The play ran for 408 performances at the Folies-Dramatiques in Paris in 1877. An English libretto was written by H. B. Farnie and R. Reece for the London opening in 1878, where it ran for a record-setting 708 performances; the New York run that same year was much briefer. However, the piece proved to be popular and was revived many times.
The plot concerns a miserly fisherman, Gaspard, his niece Germaine, and a foundling, Serpolette. Both girls have an interest in fisherman Jean Grenicheux; all three are hired by a mysterious stranger, Henri, really the exiled Marquis de Corneville. Legend has it that the bells of the town will ring when the heir and the castle are restored. Henri and Germaine fall in love, but the social gulf is too great until it is revealed that she, not Serpolette, is really a vicomtesse.
The operetta was produced on Broadway in 1877, 1898, 1902, and 1931. It was made into a film in 1917; music from it is played in the Dickson Experimental Film (1895), an early experiment in synchronizing sound and film made under the auspices of the Edison studio.
In Cather's "Old Mrs. Harris," the Templeton parents go to see The Chimes of Normandy presented by a traveling company.
Last spring: Cather reviewed a local talent production of The Chimes of Normandy on June 7, 1894.
mixed those children up: In the denouement of Gilbert and Sullivan's HMS Pinafore, Buttercup confesses that long ago,
Oh, bitter is my cup!However could I do it?I mixed those children up,And not a creature knew it!
he said damn it: In Gilbert and Sullivan's HMS Pinafore, Captain Corcoran is a model of behavior, who, as he sings,
Bad language or abuse, I never, never use, Whatever the emergency; Though "Bother it" I may Occasionally say, I never use a big, big D—
Miss Adele Simons: Adele Simons may have been related to Robert M. Simons, a commercial traveler, and Malcolm H. Simons, a clerk in the Capitol National Bank in Lincoln in the mid 1890s; this family lived at 1729 C Street.
Josephine: In Gilbert and Sullivan's HMS Pinafore, Josephine is Captain Corcoran's daughter; she loves the sailor Ralph Rakestraw.
Ralph Rakestraw: In Gilbert and Sullivan's HMS Pinafore, Ralph Rakestraw is a sailor who loves his captain's daughter, Josephine. They confess their seemingly hopeless love, but when Buttercup reveals that Ralph had been switched with Corcoran, he enters dressed as a captain and claims Josephine.
fond embracing act: In Euripides The Trojan Women, Talthybius tells the child Astyanax to leave his mother, Hecuba: "Come, child, leave fond embracing of thy woful mother." The phrase has been used in many other contexts; Cather may also have known it from John Greenleaf Whittier's "King Volmar and Elsie," when "None saw the fond embracing" when the lovers are united.
she "is an Englishman": In Gilbert and Sullivan's HMS Pinafore, sailor Ralph Rakestraw defends his temerity in daring to love the captain's daughter by proclaiming proudly that he is an Englishman. The bo'sun and the sailors respond,
He is an Englishman! For he himself has said it, And it's greatly to his credit, That he is an Englishman!
Mr. Hayden Meyer: Aloysius Hayden (or Haydn) Myer (1869-?), a plumber, was born in Illinois, according to the 1910 census, Germany according to the 1900 census. He was living in Lincoln by 1886, and married Mattie Gillespie in 1890; they lived at 327 S. 10th street; his son, Hayden junior, was born in 1895. He had his own plumbing and steam fitting firm in Lincoln before the family moved to Omaha between 1904 and 1910.
Mr. K.W. Tuttle: Probably William K. Tuttle (1869-?), who was born in Michigan. He came to Lincoln in the early 1890s, and was a clerk in the Miller and Paine department store, living at 930 S. 18th Street. The 1897 Lincoln city directory lists him as a tailor in the firm of Bumstead and Tuttle. He married his wife, Ora, about 1898; he is listed in the 1900 census for Lincoln as owning a store selling men's furnishings. However, he left Lincoln about 1905.
Dick Deadeye: In Gilbert and Sullivan's HMS Pinafore, the ugly Dick Deadeye is the jealous sailor who goes to warn the captain about his daughter's relationship with the sailor, Ralph Rakestraw.
Arthur Kellum: Arthur G. Kellum was a compositor at the Lincoln Evening News in 1886 and a printer for the Lincoln Printing Company in 1895, when he lived at 1900 Euclid Street; he no longer lived in Lincoln by 1900. His father was John H. Kellum, a carpenter.
Mr. Carlisle F. Tucker: Carlisle F. Tucker was born in Massachusetts about 1875, the son of Francis C. and Emily Tucker. The family, which included a sister, Louise, and three other brothers, William, Francis F., and Henry, moved to Lincoln in the early 1890s, and lived at 1720 M St. The elder Francis and his son William were engineers for the Burlington Railroad. Carlisle and Francis ('94) attended the University of Nebraska, although Carlisle (also known as Carl) did not graduate. The 1896 Lincoln city directory lists Carlisle as a music teacher; the family left Lincoln soon thereafter.
her brow is like the snowdrift, . . . swan: The second stanza of Lady John Scott's version of "Annie Laurie" (for which she also wrote the music), begins:
Her brow is like the snowdrift,Her throat is like the swan,Her face is the fairestThat e'er the sun shone on.