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Thursday, October 2, 2014

BAM and Thomas Edison Light Up the Stage

by Bree Midavaine

Excelsior poster, from the Prints & Photographs Division of the Library of Congress.

On the fourth anniversary of Thomas Alva Edison’s first public demonstration of the incandescent light bulb, the amazing spectacle Excelsior came to BAM. Audiences were able to see the show from December 31, 1883 to January 5, 1884, after its successful run at Niblo’s Garden. The summer before the New York City premiere of the production, Imre and Bolossy Kiralfy consulted with Edison to find a way to incorporate the electric lightbulb into the production's finale; a celebration of the past century’s technological advances culminating in the victory of the heroine, Light (the embodiment of scientific progress), over the villain, Darkness.

Designed by Edison and the Kiralfy brothers, the ballet “was brilliantly illuminated by more than five hundred light bulbs, which were attached to the costumes of dozens of dancers and to the scenery, a representation of the new Brooklyn Bridge. Each chorus girl was also given an electric wand with a small bulb at the tip.” Batteries sewn into the dancer’s corsets powered both the wands and costumes. The Kiralfys' daring partnership with Edison changed the future of stage lighting, costuming, and set design. The Brooklyn Daily Eagle “believed that in Excelsior the limits of ballet spectacle have been reached. It is certain that no grander production has ever been attempted, and it may be added, carried to a successful conclusion, in this country.”

Brooklyn Daily Eagle Advertisement for Excelsior, 1883.

1 comment:

  1. Wow, this looks beautiful. Now a day, there a lot of different kinds of lights. Btw how much it cost? Thanks for sharing.