The Princess Theatre
The Proud Princess of Melbourne
I love the Princess! It's a must-see for visitors to Melbourne.
This beautiful Victorian lady was first built at the height of the Gold Rush in 1854 and subsequent owners have meticulously cared for the magnificent faÃ§ade, the domed mansard roofs, the cast iron filigree, the stamped metal ceilings and the marble expanse of the foyer and staircase. Magnificent!
From the Mikado to Hairspray, Swan Lake on Ice to Jersey Boys, the Princess has seen some stupendous Opening Nights, graced by the resident ghost, sitting in his favourite third row seat in the Dress Circle.
The Princess Theatre is a great cultural asset to my city of Melbourne..
The Princess in the 19th century
In 1888 Melbourne was named the Theatre Capital of the Colonies.
That year the city was awash with music, both popular and operatic, and drama in five very large auditoriums and a number of smaller performance spaces.
The theatres were host to a wide variety of comedians, ventriloquists, song recitalists, local dance troupes, bellringers, boxing, wrestling and even a visiting group of Swiss Mountain yodellers.
The Princess in the 21st century
Find an old theatre and you will very often find a ghost, they're pretty much stock-in-trade.
Ghosts can regularly change costumes, interfere with the lighting, blow cold wind on the performers (or the audience) and even make on-stage appearances.
And they watch shows from their favourite seats.
For the Ghost of Federici, it's the third row seat in the Dress Circle.
The Princess Theatre has staged a drama for the past 123 years - the ghost of Frederici
The Ghost of Federici
It was the evening of 3 March 1888, and Gounod's opera Faust. was playing at the Princess.
Baritone Federici, as Mephistopheles, finished his performance by sinking dramatically through a trapdoor down to the basement.
Tragically, as Federici was lowered down,, he suffered a massive heart attack and died on the spot, his body ending up on the floor. lifeless, in its crimson costume.
But he was seen at the same time onstage taking bows!
There have been many incidents reported since then, of a ghostly presence, a dim figure, unexplained lights and even (shudder) an invisible freezing hand on a cleaner's shoulder.
When a documentary on the Princess was made nearly 80 years later, a photograph of the film set revealed an ashen-faced, partly transparent observer. No-one on the set saw the figure on that day; only the photograph revealed 'the ghost'.
Guide to Melbourne and Victoria
Clear, easy-to-use maps and a handy pull-out map of the city of Melbourne. The 'Weekend Away; feature is fantastic
How about you?
Do you love grand old theatres?
© 2011 Susanna Duffy