MUSIC AND DRAMA.
OPERA AND STAGECRAFT.
Students of the Conservatorium Opera School have given their first public per- formance. Last Saturday's scenes in costume werç in some degree tentative and experimen- tal, since the school has been in existence only a few months, and the standard of acting and deportment left a good deal to be desired. Touching on this, Mr. Roland Foster, the principal of the school, announced on Thursday that next year he would arrange for a course of systematic instruction in stage technique and operatic routine. "Expert teachers will be engaged for these subjects," he said, "and students who prefer individual tuition to class work will be able to arrange for private lessons. Singers seldom realise that it will take them nearly as long to become good actors as it would for actors to become good singers. Even a natural aptitude for the stage must be subjected to discipline and guidance. While a student, I myself spent two years at the F. R. Benson Dramatic School, which was attached to the Hampstead Conservatorium, and found this training—to- gether with a further course at the London School of Opera—extremely beneficial. Even the concert singer will profit by a course of instruction in dramatic art, which gives ease of deportment and makes movements more graceful."
While one is on the subject of acting in opera, it is interesting to notice some remarks made by the well-known English musical writer, Hubert T. Foss, in his recently-pub- lished book, "Music in My Time." He attributes the decline in patronage of opera all over the world to the fact that the operatic stage is out of touch with the "legitimate" or dramatic stage. "The assumption that a singer of opera will be an actor of opera," he says, "is made with unreasoning carelessness. The stage manager is asked to be an easy person of traditional knowledge rather than a stage-hand drilled into being a specialist in a dually complicated art. The producer is employed as one who knows opera, not as one who has had ordinary experience on the stage. . . . Always the opera house prides itself on being the asylum of music. If it were to be the asylum of drama first, and so allow the progress in modern dramatic art to enter therein, it would, I believe, attract a new and greater audience." These remarks by Mr. Foss will appeal with added force to people who have seen opera perfectly acted, as well as heard It beautifully sung—at the Residenz Theatre in Munich, for example, where Mozart is done with marvellous delicacy of detail.
In a speech from the platform last Satur- day, Mr. Foster made an appeal to the Government to grant money for proper theatrical equipment in the Conservatorium Hall. It is regrettable that such a matter should become the subject of a public agita- tion; but apparently this is the only way in which the Government can be swayed. There is little use establishing a Conservatorium Opera School unless the students can try their powers under reasonable conditions. The fees paid for tuition will appreciably swell the Conservatorium revenue, and, apart from this, amateur operatic societies would be only too glad to pay for the hire of a fully equipped stage on nights when the students were not in possession. So that the two or three hundred pounds the Government spent on modernising the Conservatorium Hall would bring in an ample return—a considera- tion which ought to appeal to the political mind, even at a time when the tendency is to give smaller, and not larger, subsidies to
THE MELBOURNE THEATRES.
During December, Melbourne is seeing a number of interesting performances in the theatre. One of the most important among these will be next Saturday's production of "The Cedar Tree," at the Princess. Mr. F. W. Thring's original plan was to present Alice Delysia there in "As You Were"; but the actress' sudden departure for Paris neces- sitated a hasty preparation of this other play. The music of "The Cedar Tree" is by Mrs. Var- ney Monk (who wrote "Collits' Inn"); the book by Mr. Edmund Barclay; and the lyrics by his wife, Helene Barclay. Mr. Barclay has already gained experience of dramatic values by writing radio plays, which have been transmitted from Sydney through the national stations. The story of "The Cedar Tree" deals with cedar-cutters and boat- builders on the Hawkesbury, near Windsor, in the eighteen-forties. In a brief letter about the play, Mrs. Barclay remarks: "It is an attempt to get away from the stereotyped presentation of an Australian background, and to depict the early settlers as they really were—not bewhiskered and illiterate morons, but essentially hard-working people, whose pleasures were simple, but whose emotions, by very reason of their environment, were tense and strong. In both the dialogue and the music, the Australian atmosphere is allowed to 'percolate through.' It is not thrust at the audience and there is no blatant or in- artistic nationalism." The cast of "The Ce-
dar Tree" will include Miss Gladys Moncrieff, Mr. Alan Priora, and Mr. Claude Flemming (who is producing). Originally, Mr. George Wallace was to have been the chief come- dian, but he is busy on a film; so his place
will be taken by Mr. Alfred Frith. Mr. George Upward is preparing the scenery. In order to allow time for rehearsals, "Jolly Roger" will be withdrawn after this even- ing's performance.
The J. C. Williamson management will stage "Roberta" next Saturday night. The cast includes Mr. Cyril Ritchard (the pro- ducer), Miss Madge Elliott, Miss Ethel Mor- rison, Mr. Frank Leighton, Mr. John Dud- ley, Miss Marie Le Varre, Mr. Leo Frank- lyn, and Miss Jean Duncan. The Russian Ballet continues at the King's Theatre. Olga Spessiva, who strained a foot during the last week of the Sydney season, is still out of the cast. Even here Natasha Bojkovich did a great amount of work; but in Melbourne she has had to take over Spessiva's roles in "Le Lac des Cygnes" and other ballets, besides dancing her own parts. Next Saturday, the ballet will move from the King's Theatre to the Comedy in order to make room for the pantomime, "Mother Goose," which Mr. Frank Nell is producing in association with J. C. Wil- liamson, Ltd. Mr. Jim Gerald will be the dame, and Miss Hetty King the principal boy.
At the Tivoli next Wednesday, "Paris en Fete" will bring forward a number of actors who appeared in this revue at the Prince of Wales Theatre in London. "The Merry Malones," which finishes in Sydney next Sat- urday, reopens in Melbourne on Boxing Day. (It was taken off there at the height of its popularity in order to allow the opera in.) After it has run at the Apollo for two and a half weeks, Mr. Ernest Rolls will take over the whole company from Sir Benjamin Fuller, and embark on further productions.
SCIENCE AND SINGING.
Mr. Roland Foster has written a book on singing. It is to be published shortly by Messrs. W. H. Paling and Company, who have sent the manuscript to London for printing. The title is "Vocal Success and How to Achieve It." Dr. Bainton has provided a brief foreword. A cursory glance through the advance proofs suggests that the treat- ment of the subject will be intensely practical and helpful to the average student, for whom the book is designed. As Mr. Foster points out, many of the best and most instructive books are either too expensive or else too abstruse and advanced in style for students of this sort and the numerous pub- lished "methods" differ so greatly in prin- ciple and practice that it is difficult to select any particular one for ell-round application. Mr. Foster's book will not seek to expound a new "method," but will condense into reason- able compass "a set of well-established prin- ciples of vocal training which have the ad- vocacy and support of numerous experts and authorities whose, reputation is unquestioned and whose standing cannot be gainsaid." In his introductory chapter, Mr. Foster remarks: "The growth of scientific knowledge relating to the voice has, without, displacing the tradi- tional precepts of the old Italian, or bel canto, school, placed vocal teaching on a firmer and more logical basis by enabling us more clearly to trace the connection between cause and effect. A closer approach to standardisation of vocal training is gradually being made, and the efforts of such bodies as the Society of English Singers in London, and the American Academy of Teachers of Singing, in New York, have brought about a definite state of agree- ment as to vocal fundamentals."