the geisha


In Anton Chekhov's sublime short story, "The Lady With the Dog," Dmitri Gurov pursues his love, Anna Sergeyevna, to her provincial Russian town and finds her with her balding husband at a performance of the operetta The Geisha. In Dezsö Kosztolányi's novel Skylark, the Vajkays, husband and wife, attend a Sárzeg performance of The Geisha. He is amused by the lyrics: "Happy Japan,/ Garden of glitter!/ Flower and fan/ Flutter and flitter . . ./ Merry little geishas we!/Come along at once and see/ Ample entertainment free,/ Given as you take your tea."

The Geisha (1896) is an actual operetta, a musical play really, by British composer Sidney Jones with Owen Hall and Harry Greenbank. It was inspired by Gilbert & Sullivan’s The Mikado and by the fad for all things oriental. Lieutenant Reginald Fairfax is enjoying a dalliance with the head geisha, Mimosa San, when his betrothed, Molly, arrives. The operetta included a song called “The Dear Little Jappy-Jap-Jappy”and another “Chin Chin Chinaman,” which may preclude it being performed any time soon. You can hear samples of both songs, if you dare, or buy the album at Amazon.