Charles Marshall’s “Dioramic” Scenery: Staging Verdi in Victorian London

Matsumoto, Naomi. 2015. Charles Marshall’s “Dioramic” Scenery: Staging Verdi in Victorian London. In: , ed. Staging Verdi and Wagner. Turnhout: Brepols, pp. 53-80. ISBN 9782503564821 [Book Section]

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Abstract or Description

This chapter investigates productions of Verdi's earlier operas at Her Majesty's Theatre, the most established Italian opera house in Victorian London. The works involved are: Ernani (on 8 March 1845), Nabucco (presented under the title Nino on 3 March 1846), I Lombardi (on 12 May 1846), I due Foscari (on 10 April 1847), I masnadieri (on 22 July 1847), Attila (on 14 March 1848), La traviata (on 24 May 1856), and Luisa Miller (on 8 June 1858). The person centrally responsibilities for those productions was Charles Marshall (1806-1890) who worked between 1844 and 1858 as ‘Principal Artist’ in that theatre. Before his retirement in 1858, Marshall’s career at the Theatre coincided not only with the rapid growth of the public’s interest in the visual side of an operatic production but also with the technical means of representation on the stage.
The investigation will begin with an examination of the scenic traditions and innovations found in London theatres which Marshall inherited from his predecessors such as Charles Ciceri, a certain Signor Zara, Gaetano Mariani, and the Grieve brothers. Using contemporary journalistic reviews, illustrations, auction catalogues, and other documents, it attempts to reconstruct and evaluate Marshall’s practical methods. Despite the size restrictions of the stage, Marshall created effective dramatic illusions for Verdi’s operas. He also recognized the full dramatic effects of lighting, and it was he who first introduced limelight. In common with other contemporary scenic artists, he employed ‘panorama’ and ‘diorama’ techniques – effects particularly popular among the British public at that time. Marshall’s experience in creating moving panoramas showing various locations (for example, from Turkey, Syria, and Egypt) enabled his stage sets to take on a new kind of realism.
When Verdi attended some of the London productions of his own works, Marshall’s skills seem to have satisfied the composer, even though he was famously meticulous about the historical/local accuracies of the stage settings of his operas. Finally this chapter examines the possibility that the London productions of Verdi influenced those on the Continent.

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10 Sep 2018 08:48

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16 Jun 2021 07:41


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