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Stonehenge:

Federici - the ghost of the Princess Theatre - is probably the most famous theatre ghost in the world, and yet most visitors to the Melbourne General Cemetery walk straight  past his grave without knowing the amazing story behind it.

After its opening in 1886, the Princess Theatre was Melbourne's home of opera. In 1888 the grand opera season opened on Saturday 3rd March with a performance of Faust starring Nellie Stewart as Marguerite, C.H. Leumane as Faust and Federici (Frederick Baker) as Mephistopheles.

The final act ends as Mephistopheles descends into hell in the midst of fire and smoke. However the scene became one of tragic reality when he suffered a heart attack on the trap (a moving platform in the stage floor counterbalanced by weights) as he descended beneath the stage. The strain of the rehearsals had been arduous and while he appeared to be in his usual state of health at the start of the performance, he showed signs of difficulty in getting through his part towards the end. He was quickly carried to the Green Room from where a doctor was summoned. Nevertheless despite attempts to revive him for an hour with galvanic batteries, he died still dressed in his crimson costume and pointed shoes. 

Federici was only thirty-eight years old at the time of his death but had suffered from heart disease for many years and was constantly on medication in the form of nitro-glycerine pills. The flag flew at half-mast on the Princess the following day and the lack of Sunday papers to relate the events led many to think it was Nellie Stewart, the doyenne of the Melbourne entertainment scene, who had died. Rumours were rife. 

    The funeral was held the following Monday at the Melbourne General Cemetery where his grave was prepared near those of other famous actors of the day. Among the pallbearers were J.C. Williamson, Arthur Garner and George Musgrove. During the burial service at the Anglican chaplain, the Reverend T.H. Goodwin, who had been overcome with emotion by the events, fainted while the coffin was being lowered into the grave. The pallbearers then invited the well-known actor Charles Warner to conclude the service. As a mark of respect no evening performance was given at the Theatre that day. 
    Frederick Baker had originally trained for the diplomatic service but at the age of twenty-three abandoned it for a musical career. He began in oratorio and concerts but soon appeared at Drury Lane. He was soon engaged by D'Oyly Carte to play in Gilbert and Sullivans's operas and included the parts of Prince Florion (Princess Ida), Harry Sherwood and Squire Bantam (Dorothy), The Pirate King (Pirates of Penzance), Dick Deadeye (HMS Pinafore), Strephon (Iolanthe), Colonel Calverly (Patience), Marquis de Pontvert (Erminie) and the leading role in The Mikado in his repertoire. His career took him to France, Germany, America and Australia. 

Sightings of Federici's ghost have been reported over the years. He has been seen in full evening dress sitting in the dress circle late at night particularly during dress rehearsals and also as a grey shimmering light moving about a chilly Theatre.

Princess Theatre owners David and Elaine Marriner would not allow priests or mediums to "pray Federici away". 
    "Everyone who works there accepts him," Sinton said. "Elaine Marriner has had experiences with Federici. But she really likes having him there and would be annoyed if anyone went in and moved him on." 
    Rob Guest received a letter when playing the lead role in Phantom of the Opera from a woman who said that while sitting in the dress circle she saw Federici standing to his left. 
    And an actor in West Side Story was putting on make-up when a hat mysteriously flew off the stand beside her. 
    "Seventy percent of the cast of Les Miserables seems to have had a brush with Federici," Sinton says.

 

 

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