Celebrity for the week ending
Saturday, 24 January 2009

Fritzi Scheff (1879-1954),
Viennese born American actress and vocalist,
in the leading role of Fifi in M'lle Modiste,
Knickerbocker Theatre, New York, 25 December 1905,
and on tour in the United States, 1907

Fritzi Scheff
Fritzi Scheff as Fifi in M'lle Modiste

(photo: unknown, New York, 1905/1906)

'Questions Answered - B.M.T., Clinton, Iowa: (1) Ingénue is strictly a French adjective from the same root as our English work ingenuous; being artless, guileless, ingenuous at heart as contrasted with alacrity, the artfulness, and often the sophistication of the soubrette. The unsuspicious girl in love, the "sweet young thing" of a not very monumental type who generally plays opposite the "romantic juvenile," and has a fondness for kisses and cosy corners, is the ingénue. The old-fashioned type of soubrette is better preserved in opera than in modern comedy; she should be able to sing and dance, she is ceaselessly flirtatious, she is piquante and has a tendency to be daring - which does not mean she is at all offensive. She is almost always petite and always vivacious. Fritzi Scheff, in M'lle. Modiste, is a splendid example of the highest type of soubrette. The ordinary specimen exists in practically every stock company, and is perhaps most frequently seen as a maid servant. (2) For this information you had best write to one of the regular dramatic publishers.'
(The New York Dramatic Mirror, New York, Saturday, 7 April 1906, p.12c)

Fritzi Scheff

Fritzi Scheff

(photo: unknown, circa 1904)

'For weeks every one has talked Fritzi Scheff, dreamed of her and longed to see her. Those fortunate enough to have seen her before were the most eager and those who were to have her as a brand new experience were on the qui vive for her coming.
'Like a bewildering kaleidoscope she appeared last night before an audience of Fresno's most exclusive and most discriminating theater patrons. Her reign of witchery, though brief, was sufficient to make captives of every mother's son in the audience and all the daughters, too. For where Fitzi Scheff is concerned there is no line of sex drawn, men and women alike worship at her shrine.
'Ordinary adjectives pale before the imperiousness and dazzling charm of this captivating little creature. She is just Fritzi Scheff. The name is she and she is the name. What's in a name? Everything when her name is Fritzi. It is the embodiment of all that is vivacious, bewitching and dainty, when applied to this particular little twinkling star.
'She fairly scintillated in a setting so perfect that all things else seemed tame and commonplace in comparison. Although of a purely Vienese type Mlle. Scheff is thoroughly French in temperament, her every movement and gesture revealed it.
'When she sang her ''Kiss Me'' song, she gave the subtle invitation so na´vely yet so fervently that one longed for an X-ray to see if every masculine heart was not more than ready to meet the invitation half way at least. Such a dainty bit of femininity would be sufficient without another charm. But then there is her voice which, though not in the fulness of its perfections, because of her delicate constitution so recently under a severe strain by a surgical operation, is marvelous in its purity and roundness. With the training for grand opera combined with the physique and daintiness of a soubrette, Fritzi Scheff is in a class all by herself and that class the A class and Fritzi the head of the class.
'Interest centers so strongly on the star that the vehicle for her work almost comes second. If Mlle. Scheff stars in comic opera she could not sing in a prettier, more fetching opera than Mlle. Modiste, in which she is surrounded by a company of astonishing strength. Victor Herbert wrote the music and Henry Blossom the book and lyrics and between them they did something worth while both for Mlle. Scheff and for the musical public. The orchestrations were very beautiful and an augmented orchestra did full justice to them. The scene was in Paris and while the atmosphere was not distinctly French, it gave opportunity for some good situations and costuming. The choruses required trained voices and this very necessary requisite of the most artistic comic opera was much in evidence. There was a remarkable aggregation of excellent voices and each was that even the smallest part had to do was done with the artistic finished when stamped the entire performance as ''dyed in the wood.'' [sic]
'It was the real thing in the way of a genuine production of first-rate comic opera and the warmth the audience showed in responding was evidence sufficient of the pleasing effect of such a performance.
'William Preuette as the typical French count, was exceedingly fine. His long association with the Savage combinations makes him known to the public in general if not from personal hearing at least by reputation. His great song hit was ''I Want What I Want, When I Want It,'' and was sung with such vehemence and enthusiasm that everyone made a fresh jump every time his emphatic fist descended upon the table as he emphasized his wants.
'Josephine Bartlett, not seen here since her Dame Durden days in Robin Hood, or maybe a year or two later with the same Bostonians of which she was ''charter'' members, was charming last night in her role of Madame Cecil, the very perfection of refined art. In her trio with Blanch Morrison and Grace Spencer, she was most interesting and showed that he charm is undiminished by the years which have gone by since she was last here.
'Several of the men had splendid voices. The lover, Robert Michaelis, was a clever young fellow and blessed with an unusually good voice, which was heard with much pleasure in one or two good numbers. A better voice was that of Howard Chambers, who sang a very fetching toast song with the chorus of girls which was extremely pretty and most musical.
'Into the mouth of Claude Gillingwater, Mr. Blossom was put some clever speeches which that gentleman delivers with the air of ''knowing just how it's done.'' As the American millionaire, he never failed to make good and in appearance was distinguished and attractive. An American note of the Middle West variety was struck in the character of Mrs. Hiram Bent, the millionaire's wife, Miss Holly made a clever hit out of this past. A more clever trio of dancers than the sisters Constantine would be hard to find. Their work called forth much applause.
'It is good to be part of an audience well pleased with themselves and all the world in general. That is what Fritzi Scheff and Mlle. Modiste did for Fresno. May they come our way soon again.'
(The Fresno Morning Republican, Fresno, California, Tuesday, 19 November 1907, p. 12d/e)

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© John Culme, 2009