Reprint: Amusements: "Moustique" at the Opera House

All things considered, Mons Henri Kowalski amd the others concerned in the production of "Moustique" can have no cause to complain of the reception accorded the new work last night. The first act went off amid enthusiastic applause, and it gave good promise for the later part of the work. The concluding two acts were not found so entirely pleasing as the first, and the interest and excitement gradually dwindled. There are two reasons for this weakness of the latter part of the opera. Mons. Kowalski appears to have been unable to cope with the difficulties of sustaining the power of his music, and the book, it must be confessed, is tame. The libretto is ascribed to the late Marcus Clarke, but it is difficult to believe that any literary man could have turned out writing which is at once deficient in point and grace, and verses which are next to impossible to sing. The words for the chorus are particularly trying, and some of the lyrics flow as smoothly as they should. That there is good work in the opera   cannot be denied, and the enterprise of the management in making way for a piece which is almost purely a local composition, should be encouraged. The music at any rate is invariably light and sparkling, partaking as it does of the Offenbachian school, and it contains some pleasing and catching compositions, albeit, there is in it an occasional reminiscence. The orchestration is not so able as it might be, but the music ripples along gaily from start to finish. One of the most tuneful airs in the piece is allotted to the representative of Queen Venus, the head of a number of ladies who live on an island in a state of single blessedness. This is a waltz song in the first act. It is extremely taking and pretty, and it was deservedly encored last night. Another charming song is that given by Moustique in this act, "I am the merry little Moustique," which was also vociferously re-demanded, thanks in no small degree to the pure voice and winning manner of Miss Flora Graupner, for the words of this song are enough to perplex any artist; they are about as hard to articulate as can well be imagined. In the finale to the first act there is a very graceful quintette and chorus. The opening chorus of the second act, "Work, work," is effective. It is immediaitely followed by the best number   which is rightly given to Moustique. This is a song in which the little hero describes life in Spain, Germany, and France. It is eminently bright and catching with its tambourine accompaniment and dance, and, magnificently rendered by Miss Graup-ner, it is likely to become popularr. The duet for the tenor and soprano in this act is exceedingly pretty. One of the best bits in the opera is in the final act. This is a quartette which parodies the Miserere scene from "II Trovatore," and there is a capital quintette, as well as a sparkling drinking song for Moustique.  It may be argued that the piece is not without its resemblances to Sullivan, Planquette, and   Cowen, but " Moustique," or at least the music of it, fulfils its purpose in being exhilirating and easily comprehended of the multitude.

The story is slight in the extreme, and,as already indicated, deals with the presence of a party of tourists on an island hitherto peopled only by damsels who are vowed to celibacy. Their resolution when put to the test is soon broken and Queen Venus and Captain Cook, Madame Manunis and Medisohn - whose names explain their characters - resolve to exchange a single life for that of prospective matrimonial bliss. The only one who is left out in the cold is Moustique, a young midshipman, after whom the opera is named. The piece, however, as it stands is rather like "Hamlet" minus the Prince of Denmark. There is little enough of Moustique in all conscience. The part, regarded either from a dramatic or musical standpoint, is an indifferent one. Moustique is banished from the stage during the finale to the first act, and he is seen only at fitfiul intervals throughout the opera. The other characters are much more in evidence, and the music of the part is not nearly so captivating as that of the other soprano part, Queen Venus.Tthis circumstance is all the more to be regretted, since Miss Flora Graupner, whose voice is pure, sweet, and soft, sings with delightful ease and felicity of expression. And, what is rare amongst ladies of the operatic stage, she acts uncommonly well into the bargain. She is neat, dapper, full of life, and she is never self-assertive. She sings the part to perfection, and she acts it with so winning and delicate an air that "Moustique" should find favour on account of the thorough excellence of this impersonation, if for nothing else. Miss Graupner has a beautiful voice, a pretty presence, and rare acting ability - a combination of good qualities which should ensure her a successful career. Miss Lilian Tree as Queen Venus, sings effectively, and she was greatly applauded last night, but she seemed a little strained, and her voice showed signs of over-exertion. Mr Henry Bracy sang, as he always does with ease and sweetness, and greatly strengthened the cast. The tenor part, however, is not so strong as might be desired. We could well afford to listen to Mr Bracy's pleasing voice and clear enunciation in one, or two more songs than those at present set down for him. The comic business is shared by Miss Clara Thompson and Mr John Forde,   both of whom are as amusing as may be. The cast of the principal characters, it will thus be seen, is not a large one, but it is more than competent. The opera went quite smoothly last night, when the conditions of such a production are taken into consideration. The hitches were trifling, and, such as they were, will doubtless be remedied at once. The scenery, by Mr. George Campbell, is pretty. The best scenes are those of the first and third acts - an island with a seascape, and the temple of Vesta respectively. The second act - the interior of a schoolroom - does not allow the scenic artist much opportunity. The male characters are attired in more or less modern costumes of all civilised nations, while the ladies in the first act wear classical dresses. The latter were not well draped last night. They should hang in graceful lines and not look so much like bundles. The dresses are right enough, but they require to be worn properly. Hovvever, as we have said, such matters as this will in all probability be speedily rectified. There was a large audience, the dress circle being particularly well-filled. There was the usual profusion of bouquets presented to the performers, and after the second act Mons. Kowalski was handed an address and a baton in addition to wreaths from various clubs. Such demonstrations of feeling are all very well, but to our   thinking, they are more in keeping at the end of the run of a piece than at its commencement.

First published in The Sydney Morning Herald, 3 July 1889

Note: this is the second of three pieces I'm reprinting here over the next week regarding this production. The first of them can be read here.

Australian Dictionary of Biography entry for Marcus Clarke

[Thanks to the National Library of Australia's newspaper digitisation project for this piece.]

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This page contains a single entry by Perry Middlemiss published on December 18, 2009 8:47 AM.

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