Alfred Bunn 1796 – 1860   ~  Incidents and Events in a Professional Life

Bunn Anatomised

'He was a strange compound: by no means bad-hearted, wonderfully good-tempered in difficulties and disasters, and endured with the greatest fortitude the most violent attacks of a cruel complaint to which he was subject; but in health and prosperity he was imperious and occasionally unjust, and sadly addicted to that common fault of theatrical managers, the using up of his performers.

What natural talent he possessed was uncultivated; his language and manners were coarse, and his taste deplorable. His management was sheer gambling of the most wretched description, in no one instance that I can remember terminating prosperously, whatever might have been the success of certain productions in the course of it'.

(Planché, Recollections and Reflections, 1872).

The George Cinema, previously the George Assembly Rooms, KIlmarnock.  Bunn presented his lecture on theatre at this venue.

Bunn as an author and lecturer

In 1840 Bunn had published an account of his career as manager, entitled The Stage Before and Behind the Curtain. He was also the reputed author of A Word with Punch, in which he replied to the attacks made upon him by the Fleet Street jester.

Bunn wrote, further, Kenilworth, an historical drama (printed 1825); The Minister and the Mercer, a comedy (printed 1834); My Neighbour's Wife, a farce; and the libretti of the following operas: The Bohemian Girl, The Bronze Horse, The Daughter of St. Mark, and The Maid of Artois. He published volumes of Poems in 1816 and 1819.

Edmund Yates says of Bunn: "I always thought that Thackeray must have sketched the portrait of Mr. Dolphin, the manager, which appears in Pendennis, from him.

.Mrs Bunn
Margaret Agnes Bunn (1799-1883) as Queen Elizabeth in Kenilworth, 1824. Hand-coloured lithograph by Hutchinson Jr, 1824. 396 mm x 295 mm. Original in the National Portrait Gallery. [Image in the public domain.] 

Mr. Bunn has varied a little his Covent Garden repertoire

Mr. Bunn has varied a little his Covent Garden repertoire by the production of The Lady of the Lake,— La Donna del Lago in an English dress. It was performed for the first time on Saturday; but the success was not such as to lead to its repetition till last night, when it was performed after an English version of the Elisir d'Amore; the bills announcing the 'immense attraction of two operas in one evening.'

The Lady of the Lake is splendidly got up, and tolerably performed. The part of Ellen is well sustained by Mrs. Donald King, though the music demands greater physical strength than she seems to possess. Miss Bassano as Malcolm Graeme is placed under the disadvantage of having to sing a deep contralto part with a high mezzo soprano voice. Mr. Travers, as King James, is feebleness personified; and Harrison's Roderick Dhu is an exhibition of' his incurable coarseness. The choruses, however, are effective, and some of the scenery is beautiful.

La Donna del Lago, in its original form, is a heavy though a gorgeous opera, and to make it at all attractive demands 'appliances and means to boot' greater than this theatre is at present-possessed of. Mr. Bunn's present course of management, does not seem to be the most judicious in the world. He has produeed only a single novelty, and that a rifacciamento from the French- Aubet's Haydee. Al his other pieces have been worn-out operas of Balfe and Wallace, or versions of Italian operas with which the public are quite familiar, exquisitely performed in their original shape.

What is desiderated is the production of new English operas; and though our musical school is not very flourishing, yet we believe that new dramatic works of merit may be had, and, that Messrs. Ralfe and Wallace are by no means the only persons capable of producing them.

Mr. Bann has materially reduced his prices of admission; but this will not avail him if he also reduce the quality of his entertainments.

The Spectator 25 NOVEMBER 1848, Page 12

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