Category Archives: Theatre music

Performing as Fadladeen

By Guest Contributor Daniel Steele

Editor’s note: in May 2017, as part of the lunch series in Music at Queen’s University Belfast, Daniel performed a recitative as Fadladeen from the 1877 cantata Lalla Rookh (W.G. Wills, text, and Frederic Clay, music).

LR.L3.WEST.Feramors, Lalla Rookh, Fadladeen.West Lalla Rookh, Fadladeen, and Feramors as depicted by Richard Westall and Charles Heath (Longmans, 1817). Image courtesy of Special Collections, McClay Library, Queen’s University Belfast.

Performing a character is always a very subjective affair. The same character may be interpreted and portrayed variously by different people based upon how they perceive the character’s intentions, actions and overall importance to the plot. The presence of effective characterisation, like many things, often goes unnoticed until it isn’t there at all. With the ability to completely alter the way in which an audience perceives and experiences a story-line, effective characterisation is one of the most important aspects of performance in theatre, musical theatre and opera.

The character of Fadladeen is a very complex one. Portraying the ‘Great Nazir or Chamberlain of the Haram’ may at first appear simple as you need only be pompous and commanding in character, but if a fully rounded and three-dimensional character is desired then this simply cannot be the case.

“You must learn to be three people at once: writer, character, and reader.”
(Kress, 2005)

Nancy Kress tells us that in order to become the character, the performer must also become the writer and audience. I believe this means that in the portrayal of a character the performer must consider the writer’s intentions for the character, the character’s own possible intentions based upon the interpreted personality and the audience’s expectations of the character. Doing so allows the performer to tailor their portrayal to be complementary to the writer’s concept, believable to the character (as written) and pleasing to the audience.

A good place to begin dissecting the character of Fadladeen would be to consider Moore’s description of him.

‘Fadladeen was the judge of every thing, – from the penciling of a Circassian’s eyelids to the deepest questions of science and literature; from the mixture of a conserve of rose-leaves to the composition of an epic poem … His political conduct and opinions were founded upon that line of Sadi, -“Should the Prince at noon- day say, it is night, declare that you behold the moon and stars.”’
(Moore, 1817)

This description provided by Moore doesn’t do much to alter the preconceived idea of how Fadladeen should appear or act but rather reinforces the idea of a commanding figure, a man of high stature that commands the stage when he takes to it.  Moore does, however, suggest him to be a fiercely loyal character, an aspect which helps to add more depth and possibly context to him and his thought processes.

If we take Fadladeen’s first solo recitative from the Frederic Clay (music) and W. G.  Wills (text) adaption of Lalla Rookh  as an example, we can see that Moore’s idea of character comes through in the rhythmic structuring of the music:  a lot of emphasis on the strong beats of the music creates a very commanding feel. This style and ‘feel’ commands the audience’s attention. A frequent use of dotted rhythms in the vocal line helps the performer to understand which syllables should be emphasised as this kind of rhythm  naturally creates a more accentuated down beat as seen in fig 1.

Frederic Clay's recitative for Fadladeen, with dotted rhythms creating a strong musical character
Frederic Clay’s recitative for Fadladeen, with dotted rhythms creating a strong musical character

The second task to portraying Fadladeen is to consider how he as a character may think and how this effects and helps shape the decisions he makes throughout. We know from Moore’s description that he is a very commanding and loyal figure, but if we study how he speaks and interacts with Lalla Rookh, it isn’t hard to notice that he is also very protective of her–whether this be through fierce loyalty to her father or through compassion towards her, this new dynamic to his character can be vital in the effective realisation of it. Considering his recitative in the Clay adaption once again, when Fadladeen says “Be it my care to wile away thy pain” (to Lalla Rookh), this suggests that he is not simply the commanding figure originally outlined by Moore.

The final task is to consider the expectation of the audience with a figure such as Fadladeen. While Fadladeen has been recognised as a rare English portrayal of a figure who faithfully reflects Persian society (Trench, 1934), it has also been pointed out that he  adds a touch of humour to the story (Rao, unknown). It can be found that characters such as Fadladeen usually require even a small bit of humour to keep them from becoming too monotonous. This humour I believe is best found in the small musical ironies within his part in the Clay adaption. As seen in fig 2. Fadladeen sings the word ‘elevate’ as the vocal line drops an octave, an irony that would not go unnoticed by a character, with a capacity to pay such immense attention to detail, such as Fadladeen.

Clay's use of musical irony in Fadladeen's recitative
Clay’s use of musical irony in Fadladeen’s recitative

With all these factors considered it is then up to the performer to absorb the information and work out what these different traits mean to them and how that will effect their physical and musical portrayal of the Great Nazir or Chamberlain of the Haram, Fadladeen.

Source List

Kress, N. (2005). Characters, emotion & viewpoint. 1st ed. Cincinnati, Ohio: Writer’s Digest Books.

Moore, Thomas (1817). Lalla Rookh. London: Longmans.

Trench, W. (1934). “Tom Moore: A Lecture by W. F. Trench.” The Irish Monthly, [online] 62(736), pp.662 – 664. Available at: [Accessed 9 Apr. 2017]. http://

Click to access IMSLP286105-PMLP287163-Clay_-_Lalla_Rookh_-_numbers_1-8.pdf

Lalla Rookh on the Dublin Stage

The first stage work inspired by Lalla Rookh opened at the Theatre Royal, Dublin on 10 June 1818. This was M.J. Sullivan’s adaptation of Moore’s text as Lalla Rookh; or the Cashmerian Minstrel, as set by the popular singer-composer Charles Edward Horn. He was the son of a musician, also named Charles Horn, who had moved to London from Nordhausen in 1780. Horn senior counted amongst his pupils members of the Royal Family as well as the young tenor John Braham. Charles junior, born in 1788, became a versatile musician eventually famed for his tenor voice: his first position, however, was as a double-bass player at Covent Garden theatre; he was then appointed as second violoncello at the Italian opera under Lindley; at the age of 17, he published his first ballad, “The Baron of Mowbray”. The New York Mirror (vol. 12, 1834, pp. 294-95) credits Horn with setting at least a dozen theatrical works performed in London, including Moore’s comic opera, The MP; or, The Bluestocking in 1811. (Horn’s taste in poetry, we are told, was “most refined”.)  In the role of the poet Feramors for his opera Lalla Rookh, Horn would have treated his audience to his “veiled” or “husky” voice, which, combine with his “good manners and gentleman-like address” (New York Mirror), would have conveyed a certain appeal to the part.Theatre_audience_18-19th_century

A theatre audience, 18th or 19th century; hand-coloured etching
Victoria and Albert Museum, London, Museum number: S.384-2009. Source= Wikimedia Commons.

We get a mixed impression regarding the success of Horn’s Lalla Rookh. Freeman’s Journal of 11 June 1818 proclaimed two or three of the airs “beautiful”, and described the “plaudits … on every side” when Moore was observed in situ on opening night, with a further “three distinct rounds of applause” two nights later, when Moore sat in the manager’s box. The publication of the score is a further marker of expectations for the work; the title-page records its dedication to that most illustrious of society patronesses, Lady Morgan:

“The Overture, Songs, & Duets, / In the Operetta of / LALLA ROOKH, / Performed with unbounded applause / AT THE / Theatre Royal, Dublin. / FOUNDED ON T. MOORE, ESQ.’S celebrated Poem; / The Words by M. J. Sullivan, Esqr. / The Music Composed, and Dedicated to / Lady Morgan, / By Charles Edward Horn. / Dublin, / Printed for the Author, by I. Willis, 7. Westmoreland Street”

Yet there is no firm record of Horn’s opera entering the repertory on a long term basis, and T. Walsh (Opera in Dublin 1798-1820, p. 192) insists it did not “become a favourite”.

While Horn’s opera may not have exerted an enduring appeal, during the nineteenth century every new generation of Dublin theatre-goers had the chance to engage with Moore’s Lalla Rookh as a stage work. Freeman’s Journal for 10 March 1843 contains an advertisement for a

“New Grand Equestrian Spectacle, / in Two Acts, called / LALLA ROOKH: / Or, The AMBASSADOR OF LOVE, AND GHEBER FIRE WORSHIPPERS / In which the entire Stud will appear.”

This work featured Lalla Rookh and her poet-lover Aliris, her father the Mughal emperor Aurungzebe, as well the added characters of Zerapghan, Himlah, and Meenah. We find another kind of poplar stage entertainment in the burlesque Lalla Rookh, Khoreanbad styled as “A Grand Divertissement” and staged on 4 Oct. 1858 at the Queen’s Royal Theatre.

The Gaiety Theatre would seem to have produced the most popular entertainment founded on Moore’s poem. On 22 December 1881 Freeman’s Journal announced

“This Evening … (at 7:30) / The Enormously Successful / The Grand Annual Christmas Pantomime, / LALLA ROOKH. / Bul Bul, the Peri: Hafed, the Gheber: and the / Feast of Roses, / Founded on Thomas Moore’s Oriental Poem. / New and Gorgeous Scenery. Magnificent Costumes. / Powerful and Specially Selected Company. / Kaleidoscopic Ballet. Exquisite Panorama. Gorgeous Marriage Revels. The celebrated Pet Elephant.”

This work was repeated at least nine times before the following notice appeared in Freeman’s Journal for 31 January 1882:

“This evening … SECOND EDITION / Of the enormously successful Pantomime / LALLA ROOKH . New Songs! New Dances! / New Medley of Moore’s Irish Melodies / New Topical Song! / New Dances and Comic Business by / The pet Elephant.”

This revision generated a further eight performances before, some fifty-five years after its source of inspiration was originally published, the Dublin public’s interest in the pantomime waned.

Lalla Rookh in Europe: the first twenty years

Lalla Rookh is the story of an oriental princess regaled with several fantastic tales by the handsome young poet Feramorz whilst travelling to her own wedding. It  is the quintessential romantic epic. Feramorz (Lalla Rookh’s betrothed, the King of Bucharia, in disguise), successfully courts his bride through his story-telling, and so by the time they reach his kingdom he has captured Lalla Rookh’s heart. Moore, who had started writing Lalla Rookh in 1813, began sending it in installments to Longmans of London between March and May 1817. On the 27th of the month it was ‘out’; by December of that year it was in its sixth London edition.

London was also the site of the initial song sheet publications. The poem itself has several song texts, either sung by Feramorz to the princess or sung by characters within the tales he tells. Moore’s regular music publisher James Power issued songs by Dr John Clarke  and well as Sir John Stevenson in 1817; this was swiftly followed by settings from  Thomas Attwood (4),  J.C. Clifton (1), W. Hawes (2), and G. Kiallmark. 1817 also marked Longman’s first edition of Royal Academician Richard Westall’s engraved ‘Illustrations of Lalla Rookh’.

Lalla Rookh continued to stimulate a notable number of vocal and artistic publications, as well as translations of its poetry, up until the first World War. Possibly the first theatre piece inspired by Moore’s poem was Charles Edward Horn’s Lalla Rookh, or the Cashmerian Minstrel to a text by M. J. Sullivan, which opened at Dublin’s Royal Theatre. The next theatrical setting appears to have been Gaspare Spontini’s ‘Festspiel’, Lalla Rûkh, to a text by S.H. Spicker, which was staged at Berlin’s Royal Palace on 27 May 1822. This stimulated a ‘lyrical drama with ballet’ by Spontini for Berlin’s Royal Opera House in 1822, named after Moore’s enchanting  odalisque, Nurmhahal. That beauty continued to inspire the German song market, with Carl Maria von Weber setting “From Chinadara’s warbling fount”, otherwise known as the ‘Song of Nurmahal’, by 1826.

Moore’s Paris agents Galignani included Lalla Rookh in their 1819 English-language edition of Moore’s works; the brothers Schumann of Zwickau issued the first German translation in 1822. Vienna had its own translation, by Baron de la Motte Fouqué, in 1825. In its second decade Lalla Rookh would travel to the orient (literally; Moore reports that the East India Company had named a ship after his creation in 1827); the poem is published in Swedish translation (Turku, 1829), and again in German at Frankfurt-am-Main (1830). Moore’s tale of the hideous (both morally and physically ) ‘Veil’d Prophet of Khorassan’ is translated into Spanish (El falso Profeta de Cora-san, Barcelona, 1836) as well as Italian (Il Profeto velato, Torino, 1838). As the Victorian era advanced, there was a particular emphasis on illustrated editions of Moore’s poem–but that is a tale for another time.

Are you aware of any translations of Lalla Rookh not mentioned here? Please tell us on the blog!