A Midsummer Night’s Dream to Mendelssohn’s Immortal Musical Setting

“Since New Haven has been the city chosen for the first American production of Shakespeare’s ‘Midsummer Night’s Dream,’ to Mendelssohn’s immortal musical setting at the Hyperion Monday evening, November 16, by the Ben Greet players of London and the Russian Symphony Orchestra of New York, it behooves New Haven to sit up and take notice as it has never done before in matters musical and dramatic. There will be many musicians of note and dramatic folks in town that ought to see this elaborate presentation which is on a scale never before attempted by any managers in America.

The stage setting for the ‘Dream’ is magnificent and Mr. Greet is now in New York personally, superintending the fashioning of the wonderful draperies he has designed, and is in conference almost hourly with the noted artists and decorators who are making the settings.

Not only as a first American performance is the play notable but it is also the first time that New Haven has ever seen so large an orchestra assisting at a dramatic performance. There have been large orchestras here for symphony work but never before in the history of the city has a band of sixty of America’s best musicians appeared either in operatic or dramatic productions. It will be a most unusual sight to New Haven’s eyes to see such a large orchestra pit.

A very large interesting feature of the performance will be the solo dances by the famous sculptress and danseuse, Mrs. Lou Wall Moore of Chicago, and the fairy dance by the ballet of children who are to come down from Boston for the performance. The children also sing the choruses with the two first fairies who have very beautiful solos and duets written for them.

For the accommodation of those who wish to obtain seats before the public sale opens a mail order sale is now on and orders and checks may be addressed to Mr. E. D. Eldridge of the Hyperion.”
-Excerpt courtesy of the Library of Congress, Chronicling America, New Have Morning Journal-Courier, November 7, 1908

To-day Is The Day – Seat Sale for Ben Greet Players Opens This Morning

“The mistake in regard to the date of the public seat sale for ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’ at the Hyperion on Monday evening has caused considerable confusion. The sale opens promptly at 9 o’clock this morning at the theater.

The presentations of the Dream by the Ben Greet players and the Russian Symphony orchestra of New York is the most notable dramatic and musical event in New Haven in many years, not only because of the magnificence of the production, and the bigness of the cast, but because the play and music will be given here that night for the first time in America. A number of notables in musical and dramatic circles are expected here for the performance.

The first appearance here of the dancer and sculptress, Mrs. Lou Wall Moore, adds greatly to the interest in the performance.

Mrs. Moore is to do her famous Greek dances in the festival scene, and in this dance wears a robe of absolutely classical correctness. This dancing genius, as she has been called by a famous old master in France, has set the whole world talking of her classic dances, and as Salome in her dance of the seven veils she is said by classical scholars to give an absolutely authentic interpretation of this dance, which cost John the Baptist his head.

Mr. Greet is an old favorite in New Haven and his brilliant production of ‘The Tempest’ at the same club under the auspices of the Yale Dramatic association, is still talked of. He brings with him in the ‘Dream’ such splendid Shakespearean actors as Eugene Cleves, Eric Blind, Henry Hillis, J. Sayre Crawley, Grace Halsey Mills, Violet Vivian, Irene Rooke, Milton Rosner and Ruth Vivian. George Vivian, who played ‘Ariel’ so delightfully in ‘The Tempest’ will appear as Puck on Monday night.

Mr. Greet himself will play Bottom the weaver.

This is also the first appearance of the Russian symphony orchestra here. The talented musicians, under the able directorship of Modest Altschuler have created a big sensation among music lovers wherever they have played, and musical curiosity is keen here regarding their interpretation of Mendelssohn’s immortal musical setting. As a conductor Mr. Altschuler is a man of great reserve force and profound musical understanding.”
-Excerpt courtesy of the Library of Congress, Chronicling America, New Haven Morning Journal-Courier, Thursday, November 12, 1908

“Mrs. Lou Wall Moore. Great Dancer Who is to Appear Here in Midsummer Night’s Dream.” -Image courtesy of the Library of Congress, Chronicling America, New Haven Morning Journal-Courier, November 13, 1908

Interest In Mrs. Moore – Great Dancer Coming With Ben Greet Players

“Mrs. Lou Wall Moore, ‘the American woman who has wrested the secret of the art of dancing from the stones and stories of ancient Greece,’ and who is to make her bow to the New Haven public on Monday evening at the Hyperion in ‘Midsummer Night’s Dream’ will arrived from Chicago late Sunday evening. Mrs. Moore who is to do the festival dances in the ‘Dream’ has only just returned to the west having come on to dance with the Ben Greet player at the performance given on October 16 in the White House Grounds for the Washing Play Ground association. At this entertainment Mrs. Moore created a tremendous sensation with her wonderful dances and both President and Mrs. Roosevelt personally congratulated her.

Mrs. Moore has also recently danced at Columbia university at the National Arts club, the Waldorf-Astoria, and several of the large studios in New York. She is a very beautiful woman and has the compelling personality of a woman of great concentration.

Mrs. Moore has also costumed and arranged the dances to be given by the children to be brought down from Boston for the fairy dances. These dances are among the most exquisite bits of this glorious presentation of the ‘Dream’ which Ben Greet and his players will give on Monday night with the Russian Symphony orchestra to do the Mendelssohn music. The children are among the best dancers in the east and Mr. Greet has been extremely fortunate to secure them for the presentation here.

The ‘Dream’ is to be magnificently staged. Mr. Greet has just had magnificent draperies made for the palace scene, and all the settings have been made by the best artists in the country.

There are beautiful solos and duets in the fairy music numbers and Mr. Greet has engaged Grace Clark Kahler, a lyric soprano, and Marietta Bagby, a well known contralto of New York to sing these parts. The children will sing the choruses with them.

The sale of seats for the performance will continue at the theater.”
-Excerpt courtesy of the Library of Congress, Chronicling America, New Haven Morning Journal-Courier, November 13, 1908

“Modest Altschuler. Conductor of the Russian Symphony Orchestra.” -Image courtesy of the Library of Congress, Chronicling America, New Haven Morning Journal-Courier, Monday, November 16, 1908

Two Performances – Ben Greet and Players to Appear Here Again To-morrow Evening

“Ben Green, who is to bring his players to the Hyperion to-night with the Russian symphony orchestra to give ‘Mid Summer Night’s Dream,’ has consented to give a second performance here to-morrow evening. The performance in its entirety with the full cast and the orchestra sixty strong, will be given as it is to-night.

This second performance of ‘Midsummer Night’s Dream’ was brought about through the suggestion of a prominent educator in New Haven. Soon after the production was announced he expressed regret that so few school children could see the unique performance. Mr. Greet was at once appealed to, and a lively correspondence and re-arrangement of engagements began. The idea of giving a performance for the school children strongly appealed to Mr. Greet and nothing was left undone to bring about a satisfactory outcome.

This is the first appearance here of the Russian symphony orchestra and it is the first time in New Haven that a big dramatic production has been offered with a full symphony orchestra and a famous conductor.

The musicians and players will arrive early this morning. Mrs. Lou Wall Moore, the dancer of Chicago, and the ballet of children from Boston joining them here. ‘The Dream’ is to be magnificently staged. It is to be the first American production of Mendelssohn music in relation to the play.

Seats on sale at the box office for performances to-night and to-morrow evening.”
-Excerpt courtesy of the Library of Congress, Chronicling America, New Haven Morning Journal-Courier, Monday, November 16, 1908

-Image courtesy of the Library of Congress, Chronicling America, New Haven Morning Journal-Courier, Monday, November 16, 1908

Ben Greet Here – Music in His Production Needs Rehearsing and Acting is Long-Drawn-Out – A Very Lively Puck

Large and Representative Audience Gathers at Hyperion for “Midsummer Night’s Dream.” – Dramatic Criticism

“New Haven had its opportunity last evening to witness an exceptional performance of ‘Ben-Greet-ed’ Shakespeare. The production was ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’ and it was exceptional, in the first place, in that it called forth what was undoubtedly the most representative and probably the largest audience which has gathered thus far this season; and, in the first place, in that it called forth what was undoubtedly the most representative and probably the largest audience which has gathered thus far this season; and, in the second place, in that the cast had a great number of supernumerics and was augmented in its efforts by the Russian Symphony Orchestra, which played Mendelssohn’s music. The production as a whole dragged lamentably in spots, noticeably during most of the dances. With the exception of a very few those who took the speaking parts were far from scintilating.

Mr. Greet himself took the part of Bottom, the Weaver, the buffoonish fellow, it will be remembered, who is changed into an ass at the hands of Puck. Mr. Greet made as silly an ass, both in and out of the mask, as ever Shakespeare imagined. His ‘business’ was varied and laugh-producing. Often times he did not hesitate to out-Shakespeare Shakespeare and to fit in lines or exclamations at his own convenience to heighten the fun and, although it seemed to border on the sacrilegious to attempt such a thing, he was generally justified in the results which he obtained.

What Mr. Greet, as the rheumatic weaver, lacked in agility was more than made up by Puck, which role was essayed by George Vivian with some show of skill. Mr. Vivian’s Puck was a lively fellow, ever on the go, dressed in a red devil’s costume and followed constantly by a vivid red spot-light, which never lost him. His grimaces and inarticulate chucklings did not seem to fit in with our longstanding ideas of the character, however, Puck, as we have known him before this, both on the stage and in the book, has been a harmless sort of fellow and with little or nothing of the devil about him – a fellow in truth more on the type of Peter Pan.

Of the rest of the cast little need be said. Those others of the Athenian workmen who took part in the Pyramus and Thisbe funmaking were all of them good, especially those who took the lion and the moon. Their scene in the palace in Athens where they presented their little play was most laughable and ridiculous, but exceedingly long drawn out. Here Mr. Greet’s acting was unquestionably funny but it savored more strongly of the kind of slap-stick fun one would expect most in vaudeville.

It was evident that some efforts had been expended on the dances. These had their elements of great worth not because of the people on the stage, however, but because of the men in the orchestra-pit. The company had brought with it a number of children, easily twenty altogether. Among these there was one very cute little girl who seemed very much bewildered by the whirling dancers about her and her efforts to keep up her end of the dance were innocently childish but ridiculously laughable. She looked as if she had been asleep in the wings and had been awakened suddenly to take her part on the stage when drowsy and listless. Because of her stumbling, she became not a pleasing incident of the dances, but rather the center of all eyes to the exclusion of all else.

The Ben Greet production was in one act from the time the curtain raised. Perhaps it was the fact that there was no cessation at all that accounted for the long-drawn-out effect. For the palace scene the back drop was partially drawn aside at the center to disclose a bit of a wall and the mounds of the woods were temporarily covered with silks. ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’ will be repeated this afternoon and evening.

Musical Criticism

Mendelssohn’s score is quite familiar from occasional performances with a reader and a pianoforte, a very unsatisfactory portrayal of the play and entirely inadequate as regards the refreshing and melodic beauty of Mendelssohn’s music. The latter is a striking example of the fresh spontaneous grace and clearness which was characteristic of Mendelssohn. The overture was written when he was a lad of sixteen and well grasps the fairy element which runs through the music of the play. Schumann said ‘his music is a meditation on the play, a bridge between Bottom and Oberon, without which the passage into fairy land is almost impossible.’ The music including the familiar ‘Wedding March’ was written eighteen years after the overture, but while it was the product of riper years, Mendelssohn’s pen had lost none of its spontaneity and pictures with dainty and exquisite grace the fairy element of the play. Mendelssohn’s music was very appropriate as an opening of the centenary celebration, which will be celebrated quite generally in musical centers.

The Russian Symphony Orchestra have upheld the banner of Russian music faithfully, but are not at ease in the delicate touches of Mendelssohn. The string section of the orchestra is its strongest feature. Last night’s performance showed the need of more rehearsals on the part of the orchestra, there were rough spots in which the delicacy of Mendelssohn was not evident and a lack of smoothness and finish. The ‘Wedding March’ was played in a perfunctory manner and lacked elasticity.

The best work of the orchestra was in the ‘Dream’ music and the composer’s ‘Spring Song,’ which was quite happily interpolated.

In the incidental vocal music there was a lack of sympathy between the singers and the orchestra and here again was the need of rehearsals evident. Mr. Altschuler knows his orchestra and his men obeyed well, but it is probable that his sympathies are with the more rugged Russian school, with its vigor and eloquence. Our New Haven Symphony orchestra has given us a more convincing exposition of the beauties of Mendelssohn’s score.”
-Excerpt courtesy of the Library of Congress, Chronicling America, New Haven Morning Journal-Courier, Tuesday, November 17, 1908. (top) Image courtesy of the Library of Congress, Chronicling America, New Haven Morning Journal-Courier, Thursday, November 12, 1908

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