Ib and Little Christina

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From the programme of the original production, 1900

Ib and Little Christina refers to two theatrical adaptations by Basil Hood of the 1855 fairy tale by Hans Andersen of the same name.[1]


The first was a play styled "A Picture in 3 Parts", with incidental music by Arthur Bruhns and was first produced at the Prince of Wales Theatre, opening on 15 May 1900 and running for 60 performances. It starred Martin Harvey and nine-year-old Phyllis Dare.[2] The piece was transferred to the Coronet Theatre that summer.[3] There was also a Broadway run in 1900.[4] It was revived at Terry's Theatre in January 1903, playing for 16 performances, and again at Terry's in early 1904, for 31 more performances.[5] The play was also revived at the Adelphi Theatre in September 1908, playing for seven performances.[6]


Hood then rewrote Ib and Little Christina as an opera styled "A Picture in 3 Panels", with music by Franco Leoni. This was first produced at the Savoy Theatre on 14 November 1901 and ran together with Hood's The Willow Pattern for 16 performances, until the end of November.[7] The libretto was published by Chappell & Co., and a copy is in the British Library at 11778.f.23(4) (1901). The Times described it as "an opera of ultra-modern type" and compared it unflatteringly to the work of Arthur Sullivan, who had died earlier in that year.[8] The Manchester Guardian later said that "the music, though clever and attractive in many ways, was too realistic and too Southern to reflect the Northern symbolism of Andersen's story, and that its peculiar vein of passion was out of place."[9] The piece was revived at Daly's Theatre from 11 to 13 January 1904, then transferred to the Lyric Theatre from 19 January to 5 March 1904, running for a total of 23 matinee performances.[6][10] The opera is not quite a full length piece and is played in three short scenes.[11]

Opera synopsis[edit]

Drawing of 1901 production from Judy magazine

Ib and his father are very poor and live alone, and Old Henrik and his granddaughter Christina are their neighbours. The two children are in love, and Ib is willing to sacrifice everything for her. An old gypsy woman visits Ib and gives him three wishing nuts.

15 years later, the children are now grown up, and Christina has fallen in love with a richer man. Broken‑hearted but faithful, Ib gives her up.

Seven years later, the marriage brought no happiness to Christina, who died in poverty. The gypsy woman brings Christina's daughter (also called Christina) to Ib, and they live happily together.

Roles and casts: Original; Savoy[edit]

From the 1901 programme


  1. ^ Information about Andersen's tale and links, including an English translation
  2. ^ Information about Harvey and the Prince of Wales Theatre production
  3. ^ "The Coronet Theatre", The Morning Post, 25 July 1900, p. 3
  4. ^ Information about the Broadway production
  5. ^ The 1904 Terry's run could be the Leoni version, as the sources are not crystal clear on the point
  6. ^ a b Wearing, J.P. The London Stage 1900-1909 (2 vols), Scarecrow (1981) ISBN 0-8108-1403-X
  7. ^ The Times, 28 November 1901, p. 8
  8. ^ "Savoy Theatre", The Times, 15 November 1901, p. 9
  9. ^ "Music in London", The Manchester Guardian, 13 January 1904, p. 4
  10. ^ The Times, 6 January 1904, p. 6; 8 February 1904, p. 8; and 5 March 1904, p. 10.
  11. ^ Ib and Little Christina homepage at the G&S Archive


External links[edit]