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|Bluebeard, or, Female Curiosity! ; A Georgian Extravaganza
Written by JulieW
(11/29/2006 9:36 a.m.)
This is a poster showing of one of the actual scenes designed by Thomas Greenwood junior, for its first performance in London, on the 16th January 1798 at the Drury Lane Theatre, which gives you some idea of the complexity and extravagance of the production.
It was a spectacle, a "Grand Dramatick Romance",similar to a pantomime, and it was quite suitable for children. I wonder if all the party from 13 Queen's Square went to see it?
The text was written by George Coleman the Younger and the music by Michael Kelly,the Irish tenor, composer, theatre manager and music publisher, who is shown below.
Michael Kelly had seen Grétry’s opera Barbe Bleue, based on Perrault’s fairy tale, in Paris in 1790. In 1797 he paid Colman to make a libretto out of it, and Colman turned the villain into fom a Frenhman into a Turkish one, Abomelique.
Reviews of Bluebeard were very mixed on its introduction at Duruy Lane in 1789, just after the pantomime season( Christmas season had just ended): complaints were made about the dealys casued by some of the elaborate scene changes, but the work was very popular with audiences.
In the course of the representation, many blunders in working the scenery, which are unavoidable in a first -representation of this nature, occurred, and the delays which took place were frequently very great.. it was 12 o'clock before the curtain dropped...the expense of gettting it up is said to be not less than £2000"
It's most impressive effect was a grand cavalcade across the mountains, which used model figures and animals growing larger at each successive appearance!
At a revival of Blue Beard at Covent Garden in 1811, 16 white performing horses were used in one scene, to ‘thunders of applause’.
Here is a Playbill for a performance of Blue Beard on 9th December 1816, at the Theatre Royal Covent Garden,and note that it features one of JA's most favourite actresses, Miss O Neill( the lady who hugged Mr Younge so delightfully!:see letter 112)
Which may have meant that this play was perfect for her, for it was criticised for being, ermm....shall we say, a little over the top?:
Could Kelly check that constant tempest of passion which tears to rags almost every sentiment he delivers, the dialogue of the piece would be much improved
The Times, 2oth January, 1798.
Whatever...it proved to be a very popular work, recouped its investment many tiems over and remained in the reportory of both the London and provincial threatres for 26 years!
I'm sure ridculously over the top spectacle,disasterous scene changes etc was just the type of thing to appeal to JA's sense of the ridiculous.
I wish I'd been there......
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