Opera Scotland

Private Wire A Private Wire

Music

Percy Reeve.

Text

Arnold Felix and Frank Desprez.

 

Premieres

First Performance: London (Savoy Theatre), 31 March 1883.

First Performance in Scotland: 1884 tbc.

 

Background

A Private Wire is one of a multitude of brief one-act entertainments commissioned by theatre managements to supplement the main event of the evening. The practice was usually to perform such a work as a curtain-raiser at the beginning of the evening, to pass the time until patrons in the more expensive seats (usually including critics) had arrived after dinner. In some places they would be given as an after-piece, following the departure of patrons with last trains or ferries to catch. They also provided the opportunity for an artist to be tried out in a solo role without the full exposure entailed by a part in the main show. In this instance, the role of Mrs Frumpington was created by Rosina Brandram, but she had to relinquish the part when Alice Barnett fell ill and the younger contralto, her understudy, succeeded to the role of Queen of the Fairies. She never looked back.

On the 1884 tour, A Private Wire was played as a curtain-raiser for Patience, though its original London run had been as a companion-piece for Iolanthe.

 

Characters

Mrs Frumpington, a widow (contralto)

Miss Rose Frumpington, her daughter (soprano)

Mr Napoleon Fitz-Stubbs, her neighbour (baritone)

Mr Philip Fitz-Stubbs, his son (tenor)

Mary, a maidservant (soprano).

 

Plot Summary

Mr Fitz-Stubbs and his son Philip live across the road from Mrs Frumpington and her daughter. Philip loves Rose. His father disapproves, but has, himself, taken a fancy to the mother. To facilitate communications with Rose, Philip secretly instals a telephone linking the two houses. Confusion arises when the widow attempts to contact her late husband by spiritualist methods to gain approval of her remarriage. She and Philip briefly get their wires crossed, with mutual incomprehension, until the facts are revealed, and both marriages follow.

Sources include Wikipedia and contemorary newspapers and periodicals.

The Cast

Mary
 a maidservant
Miss Rose Frumpington
 her daughter
Mr Napoleon Fitz-Stubbs
 a neighbour
Mr Philip Fitz-Stubbs
 his son, in love with Rose
Mrs Frumpington
 a widow and spiritualist

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