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From The Times, Thursday, December 29, 1881.

An interesting experiment was made at a performance of Patience yesterday afternoon, when the stage was for the first time lit up by the electric light, which has been used in the auditorium ever since the opening of the Savoy Theatre. The success of the new mode of illumination was complete, and its importance for the development of scenic art can scarcely be overrated. The light was perfectly steady throughout the performance, and the effect was pictorially superior to gas, the colours of the dresses – an important element in the “æsthetic” opera – appearing as true and distinct as by daylight. The Swan incandescent lamps were used, the aid of gaslight being entirely dispensed with.

The ordinary electric apparatus has the great drawback for stage representations that the flames cannot be lowered or increased at will, there being no medium between full light and total darkness. This difficulty has here been successfully overcome by interposing in the circuit through which the lamps receive the current what in technical language is called a “resistance.” This “resistance” consists of open spiral coils of iron wire, which is, compared with copper, a bad conductor of electricity, its “conductivity” being only one-sixth of that of the last-named metal. This mode of reducing the current is, however, only a temporary expedient, its drawback being that much of the electrical force is wasted on its passage through the iron, and a more economical method will ultimately be adopted for obtaining the same effect.

The comparative safety of the new system was pointed out to the audience by Mr. D’Oyly Carte, the manager of the Savoy Theatre, who enveloped one of the lamps in a piece of highly inflammable muslin. On the glass being broken and the vacuum destroyed, the flame was immediately extinguished without even singeing the muslin. The occasion of which we speak is, we believe, the first on which an entire theatre has been illuminated by electricity alone, and the marked success of the experiment augurs well for the future of the new light on the stage.


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30 August, 2011