Opera Scotland

Geisha The Geisha

Music

Sidney Jones (born London, 17 June 1861; died Kew, 29 January 1946).

Text

Harry Greenbank (lyrics) and Owen Hall (book)

 

Premieres

First Performance: London (Daly's Theatre), 25 April 1896.

First Performance in Scotland: Glasgow (Royalty Theatre), 21 September 1896.

 

Background

The Geisha was the third musical comedy with music by Sidney Jones, and, successful as its predecessors had been, The Geisha eclipsed them. Internationally, it was an unprecedented success, in the USA, and especially, on the continent.

As frequently happened with these works, several changes were made before the final text was arrived at, and the Sidney Jones score also contains two songs composed by Lionel Monckton (lyrics by James Philp). Monckton, himself, would later be the main musical contributor to The Arcadians, another of the successful works in this genre.

While not opera, there will be occasions when we include musicals in the Opera Scotland database. Decisions will necessarily be pragmatic, but late-Victorian and Edwardian musical comedies frequently demanded vocal technique comparable to the contemporary operettas issuing from Vienna and elsewhere, even if musical composition was less elaborate. So, if we include The Merry Widow, it is difficult to argue against The Geisha. Anyway, it contains some lovely stuff.

It is nowadays commonplace for opera companies to mount stagings of classic Broadway musicals, such as Kiss Me Kate, Carousel, My Fair Lady, Fiddler on the Roof, Sweeney Todd and many others. As with the operatic and music theatre works of Weill, an element of crossover is unavoidable. A century ago, performers seem to have switched from one style to another with little difficulty.

 

Main Characters

O Mimosa San, chief geisha (soprano)

Juliette Diamant, a French interpreter (soprano)

Molly Seamore, engaged to Reginald (mezzo-soprano)

Reginald Fairfax, a British naval officer (baritone)

Wun-Hi, a tea house proprietor (baritone)

Katana, captain of the guard (tenor)

Marquis Imari, police chief (bass-baritone)

 

Plot Summary

Before sailing for Japan, Reginald and Molly get engaged. Once in Japan, he and his fellow officers quickly become bored, and find entertainment in the local tea house, run by Wun Hi and employing a group of geisha. Reggie takes a fancy to Mimosa, their chief. However she already has a relationship with Katana and is coveted by Imari, who wants to increase his collection of wives. He threatens to close the tea house down and have the girls sold off, so that he can take his pick of them.

Molly, having heard of Reggie's flirtation, arrives as one of the house guests of a travelling English lady. She and Mimosa come up with a plan for Molly to win Reggie back - with Mimosa's help she disguises herself as a geisha. When Imari puts his plan into action, Mimosa eludes capture. But when the other girls are put on the market, Molly is among them, and she is acquired by Imari. The solution is found by Mimosa - she contrives to switch Molly for Juliette, the French interpreter who does love Imari. A contrite Reggie is reunited with Molly, and Mimosa is able to marry her own love, Katana.

The Cast

Arthur Cuddy
 an Officer of HMS Turtle
Dick Cunningham
 an Officer of HMS Turtle
Edith Jervis
 an English Guest
Ethel Hurst
 an English Guest
George Grimston
 an Officer of HMS Turtle
Juliette Diamant
 a French Interpreter, attached to the Tea House
Katana
 Captain of the Governor's Guard
Komurasaki San
 (Little Violet) a Geisha
Lady Constance Wynne
 an English Visitor
Louie Plumpton
 an English Guest
Mabel Grant
 an English Guest
Marie Worthington
 an English Guest
Marquis Imari
 Chief of Police and Provincial Governor
Molly Seamore
 an English Guest
Nami
 (Wave of the Sea) an attendant
O Hana San
 (Blossom) a Geisha
O Kiku San
 (Chrysanthemum) a Geisha
O Kinkoto San
 (Golden Harp) a Geisha
O Mimosa San
 Chief Geisha
Reginald Fairfax
 an Officer of HMS Turtle
Takamini
 the Governor's Agent
Tommy Stanley
 Midshipman from HMS Turtle
Wun-Hi
 a Chinaman and Tea House Proprietor

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