The Princess and the Butterfly

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The Ludgate Monthly, 1897
Theatrical poster for The Princess and the Butterfly by Daniel Frohman's Lyceum Theater Company.

The Princess and The Butterfly: or, The Fantastics is a comedy in five acts by Arthur Wing Pinero first produced at London’s St. James's Theatre on March 25, 1897 and in New York at the Lyceum Theatre on November 23, 1897. [1][2] The New York version of The Princess and the Butterfly was somewhat abbreviated from the four-hour production that originally played in London.[3]

Synopsis[edit]

  • Act I, London.—at Princess Pannonia's residence on Park Lane.
  • Act II, London.—at St. Roche's residence on Grosvenor Place. (Some Weeks Elapse.)
  • Act III, Paris.—at Princess Pannonia's residence on the Avenue des Champs-Filysees.
  • Act IV, Paris.—same as act III, different room. (A Month Passes.)
  • Act V, Paris—an orchard, near Fontenay-Sous-Bois.
[4][2]

Princess Pannonia is the English-born wife of a Hungarian noble who has spent the last twenty years of her life living in the remote castle of Mornavitza. After her husband dies, the princess returns to London where she falls in love with Sir George Lamorant, an old friend once known as "the butterfly." Their plans to marry though are soon complicated by a shared fear of approaching middle age. [5]

Dramatic Technique, By George Pierce Baker, 1919

In The Princess and the Butterfly, Act I not only disposes of preliminary necessary exposition, but depicts different kinds of restlessness in a group of women at or nearing middle age. Act II does the same for a group of men, and in the proposed duel provides what later may be made to reveal to Sir George how much Fay Zuliani cares for him. Act III complicates the story by showing that Fay is not the niece of Sir George, and illustrates the growing affection between the Princess and Edward Oriel. Act IV reveals to Sir George and Fay how much each cares for the other. The fifth act shows how Sir George and the Princess, who have tried to be wise and restrained, impulsively and instinctively, choose the path of seeming unwisdom but immediate happiness. [6]

Reception[edit]

The Opera Glass, 1897

Daniel Frohman's stock company returned to the Lyceum, opening in Pinero's, The Princess and the Butterfly. You all know what a Pinero play is; well, this one is just like the others. It tells an impossible story but gives ample opportunity for the men and women to exhibit themselves. Yet the play was a success. There can be no doubt of that. But the success is due to Mr. Frohman's clever company, chief among which is Julie Opp, who appeared in the original production in London. Miss Opp is a beautiful woman and looked and acted the part of the Princess to perfection. The acting of James K. Hackett and Mary Mannering was additional proof of their talent. Mr. Morgan, Mrs. Whitten and Mrs. Walcot were delightful as usual. [7]

The American University Magazine, 1897

The delightful play, The Princess and the Butterfly, will doubtless have a long run at the Lyceum. The public appreciates that It is getting a good deal for one's ticket to have two leading roles with Mary Mannering and Julie Opp to fill them.[8]

Original London and New York Casts[edit]

George Alexander as George Lamorant
  • Catharine … Eleanor Aickin … Evelyn Carter
  • Maxime Demailly … A. Royston … William Courtleigh
  • Faulding … A. W. Munroe … John Findlay
  • Annis Marsh … Dorothy Hammond … Katherine Florence
  • Mrs. Marsh … Mrs. Kem Mis … Grace Root
  • Percival Ord … A. Vane Tempest … Seymour George
  • George Lamorant … George AlexanderJames K. Hackett
  • Blanche Oriel … Mabel Hackney … Helen Macbeth
  • Fay Zuliani … Fay DavisMary Mannering
  • Bartley Levan … Gerald Gurney … Henry Miller
  • Honorable Charles Denstroude … Frank R. Mills … Ivo Dawson
  • Edward Oriel … H. B. Irving … Edward Morgan
  • Mr. St. Roche … H. V. Esmond … Felix Morris
  • Mrs. St. Roche … Miss C. Granville … Elizabeth Tyree
  • Mrs. Sabiston … Mrs. Cecil Raleigh … Nina Morris
  • Mrs. Ware … Julie OppAlison Skipworth
  • Adrian Mylls … George Bancroft … H. S. Taber
  • The Princess Pannonia … Julia NeilsonJulie Opp
  • Major-Gen. Sir Robert Chichele, K.C.B … H. H. Vincent … Charles Walcot
  • Lady Ringstead … Rose Leclercq … Mrs. Charles Walcot
  • Lady Chichele … Pattie Bell … Blanche Whiffen
  • Lieut.Colonel Arthur Eave … C. A. Smith … George Alison
  • Sir James Velleret … M.P R. Dalton … n/a
  • Col. the Hon. Reginald Ughbrook, C.B. … C. Stafford… n/a
  • Mrs. Ughbrook … Miss Leila Repton … n/a
  • Count Vladislau Reviczky … S. Hamilton … n/a
  • General Yanokoff … Mr. Richards … n/a
  • Madame Yanokoff … Ellen Standing… n/a

Sources: Arthur Wing Pinero, Playwright: a Study by Hamilton Fyfe, 1902[9] and Plays of the Present by John Bouvé Clapp and Edwin Francis Edgett, 1902[10]

References[edit]