Kate Terry in Bel Demonio, 1863

July 28, 2013

carte de visite photograph of the English actress, Kate Terry (1844-1924), as Lena in Charles Fechter’s production of Bel Demonio (The Broken Vow: a Romance of the Times of Sixtus the Fifth), a drama by John Brougham based on Prosper Goubaux and Gustave Lemoine’s L’Abbaye de Castro, produced at the Lyceum Theatre, London, on 31 October 1863
(photo: Southwell Brothers, London, 1863)

‘The Lyceum will be re-opened by Mr. Fechter for the season on Saturday next, October 31 [1863], [with] a new four-act drama founded on a plot by Paul Feval, and entitled Bel Demonio, a Love Story, being produced on the occasion. An entirely new stage has been laid down, the interior of the Theatre has been re-embellished, nd the principal parts in the play will be sustained by Miss Elsworthy, Miss Kate Terry, Mr. John Brougham, Mr. [Sam] Emery, Mr. George Jordan, Mr. G.F. Neville, and Mr. Fechter.’
(The Era, London, Sunday, 25 October 1863, p. 10a)

Lyceum Theatre, London, Saturday, 31 October 1863
‘Mr. Fechter inaugurated his second season on Saturday evening under the most flattering auspices, the house being attended by a numerous and enthusiastic audience… . A new stage, constructed upon a principle which has been found to work well in the Parisian theatres, has been laid down; and, when the audience shall have become accustomed to it, it will doubtless be recognised as an improvement. Without attempting to bore the reader with an infinity of technical details intelligible only to stage-carpenters, it will suffice to state in general terms that the chief objects of the new system are to abolish what are called the ”wings,” to do away with the visible functions of scene shifting, and to substitute a silent and unseen mechanism for many of the operations which have heretofore been executed by manual labour. This reform is but the natural development of that proficiency in the mechanical arts which is characteristic of the age, and the only wonder is that it has not been applied before now to the business of the theatre. In the days of Garrick, the candle-snuffer was an indispensable functionary of the playhouse. His abolition, inevitably consequent upon the introduction of gas, was felt to be a public benefit; and it is not improbable that the disappearance of other officials who were never ornamental, and who cannot now be said to be useful, will be regarded with equal favour. It will no longer be necessary that furniture and the requisite accessories of stage ”interiors” should be carried to and fro by footmen in obsolete liveries, not will the audience be again shocked with visions of stalwart mechanics in their shirt-sleeves pushing mountains with their shoulders, or shooting sections of scenery along wooden groves [sic] till the sundered landscapes are fitted together with a crash for which there is not more warranty in nature than for the severing of the scene. Rocks, grassy mounds, and garden seats will for the future be made to appear and disappear by some more artistic agency than either the corporeal intervention of an awkward servant coming in for the purpose, or the still more clumsy expedient of a rope pulled at the sides. The footlights, instead of being obtruded above the boards, with their unsightly tin-reflectors, are now sunk below the level of the stage, an arrangement which not only softens the tone of the light and prevents the wavering and flickering of shadows upon the faces of the actors, but also tends to the personal safety of the corps de ballet, whose dresses were formerly in continual danger of catching fire… . The piece called Bel Demonio, which was produced on Saturday is not so much a play as a series of splendid tableaux into which the actors are introduced like figures in a classic landscape rather for the purpose of improving the picturesqueness of the scene than for that of illustrating any actual or possible occurrence of real life. The story … is as intricate and bewildering piece of mechanism as ever taxed the ingenuity of novelist or playwright … Miss Kate Terry, as Lena, acted with a grace and tenderness that made the character exceedingly attractive… . The piece was received throughout with vehement acclamations, and the principal performers were summoned before the curtain, not only at the end of each act, but on the conclusion of every tableau – an insane proceeding, which, besides destroying whatever illusion the play might inspire, contributed to protract the performances long beyond midnight.’
(The Morning Post, London, Monday, 2 November 1863, p. 3a/b)


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