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Modern Theatre in Context: A Critical Timeline

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H.M.S. Parliament, Canadian Illustrated News, 1880

William Henry Fuller's political satire H.M.S. 'Parliament;' or, The Lady Who Loved a Government Clerk opens for a week-long run by the Eugene McDowell Company at the 2,000-seat Academy of Music in Montreal on February 16. McDowell and his wife, the actress Fanny Reeves, then tour the play (also a parody of Gilbert and Sullivan's H.M.S. Pinafore) until August to over two dozen cities from Saint John to Winnipeg. The February 28 Canadian Illustrated News reports of the musical's satire of federal politicians that "the making-up of those heads for which the taps are intended, is so cleverly done that the expression leaves no doubt as to who is meant, and the striking resemblance of the Canadian household which are busy with grinding axes in the opening scene, indicate that the hits are really good."

Canada's leading poet, Louis-Honoré Fréchette (1839-1908) has two of his dramas about the 1837 rebellion, the historical drama Papineau and the romantic melodrama Le Retour de l'exilé, performed at the Academy of Music in Montreal June 7-12 and in Quebec City June 24-28. The newspaper la Patrie reports on June 1 before the premieres that "never before have plays been produced with as much care by Canadian amateurs. All the best talent of Montreal is assembled to assure the success of this patriotic attempt to establish a national theatre among us." At the end of the third act of Papineau, Fréchette receives a standing ovation and is presented with a gilded bronze crown on stage. La Patrie reports on July 16 that the elite society of Montreal had "added to his title of favourite poet the no less glorious title, Father of the national theatre."

Sarah Bernhardt makes her first Canadian appearance at the Academy of Music in Montreal December 23-25 in Scribe's Adrienne Lecouvreur, Meilhac and Halévy's Frou-Frou, Dumas's La Dame aux Camélias and Hugo's Hernani. She returns to Canada during her North American tours in 1881, 1887, 1891, 1892, 1896, 1905, 1906, 1911, 1913, 1916, 1917 and 1918.

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