On this day…….

….in 1889 The Gondoliers opened at the Savoy Theatre in London for the first of a very successful 554 night run.  In fact, the Gondoliers earned more in its opening run than any other Gilbert and Sullivan work.

Gondoliers

The Gondoliers was the next collaboration of Gilbert and Sullivan following The Yeomen of the Guard and Sullivan was very open in his desire to move away from their usual form into something more ambitious.  Gilbert however was of the opinion that they should remain with the formulaic style of their previous successes.  A series of wrangling letters ensued until ultimately a compromise was reach that Sullivan would right a light opera for the Savoy and then a more grand opera for a new theatre built for that purpose.

The opening number of The Gondoliers is certainly the longest in the Gilbert and Sullivan canon with a massive 15 minutes of continuous music before any libretto is spoken.  The style of the music with its flavours from Venice and Spain is set for the rest of the operetta in this opening passage.

The Gondoliers was received to critical acclaim by theatre goers and on 6th March 1891 was performed as a Royal Command Performance for Queen Victoria at Windsor Castle – the first of Gilbert and Sullivan’s works to achieve such heights.

The Gondoliers is certainly not a show for the faint-hearted to produce – requiring sumptuous costumes, impressive scenery and a massive cast – indeed if a company stays true to the opening number, “four-and-twenty” maidens are required simply for the female chorus not to mention a host of gondolieri and various lead roles.

On a personal note, The Gondoliers is my absolute favourite in the Gilbert and Sullivan repertoire because of its amusing storyline and the absolutely glorious melodies and foot-tapping music that Sullivan produced.

Bingley Gilbert and Sullivan Society has performed The Gondoliers on 7 occasions, the most recent being 2008 and I very much look forward to being involved with another fine production at The Arts Centre in the near future.

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On this day…….

In 1882 Iolanthe, or The Peer and the Peri, opening at London’s Savoy Theatre.  In a first for any play, Iolanthe opened simultaneously in London and New York and two casts rehearsed alongside one another in the run up top opening night.

Iolanthe

W.S Gilbert first had his idea for a storyline similar to Iolanthe in one of his Bab Ballads entitled “The Fairy Curate” where a fairy marries a mortal.

In true Gilbert and Sullivan fashion, Iolanthe is a satire poking fun at supposedly ineffectual and over-privileged House of Lords.  Iolanthe is often famed for its sumptuous costume and effects to make the fairy world ever more realistic.  In fact advances in technology meant that even in the very first shows, the fairies had headdresses of fairy lights powered by small batteries.

The absurdity of the show is not lost with all members of the House of Lords in love with the heroine Phyllis and Strephon in charge of the entire Parliament.  Upon opening, the operetta received rave reviews and critical acclaim.

Iolanthe was the first of Gilbert and Sullivan’s works to be performed by a non-D’Oyle Carte company when it was produced by the Sadler’s Wells Opera in January 1962.

One of the lines from the play “this comes of women interfering in politics” was oft-quoted when Margaret Thatcher became Prime Minister.  One of the most iconic songs in Gilbert and Sullivan’s canon – and certainly one of my favourites – the March of the Peers comes from Iolanthe and sounds utterly sublime when well performed by a good male voice.

Bingley Gilbert and Sullivan have performed Iolanthe on six occasions and of course our 2017 production will be Iolanthe, for which tickets are already on sale.

Iolanthe Flyer

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On this day…..

…….in 1877 Gilbert and Sullivan presented their operetta The Sorcerer to a packed house at the Opera Comique.

Image of John Wellington Wells

The Sorcerer was Gilbert and Sullivan’s third collaboration and was based on a short story by W.S Gilbert entitled The Elixir of Love.  The story centres on Alexis Pointdextre and his belief that love levels all rank, so strong a belief that he enlists the help of a sorcerer to provide him with a love potion.  Naturally things don’t quite go accordingly to plan and hilarity ensues when an entire village falls in love with the first person they, not to mention some marked confusion between a “filter” and a “philtre”.

The Sorcerer received good reviews initially but quickly fell out of favour and remains one of the less well known Savoy Operas, being overshadowed by the later successes.  The Sorcerer, unlike some of the more popular works, draws largely on satire of social convention and pastoral opera and loses some of the humour in translation for modern audiences.

The Sorcerer did however lay out the standard for later Gilbert and Sullivan productions in terms of appearance of regular roles; a comic baritone with a patter song, a tenor and soprano as lovers, and comic roles for a bass-baritone and a contralto.

Whilst less regularly performed than some of the more famous works, The Sorcerer has strong libretto and some wonderful songs, not least the fantastic “My Name is John Wellington Wells” performed by the ultimately doomed sorcerer.  Nevertheless, Isaac Asimov wrote an homage to The Sorcerer in his short story The Up to Date Sorcerer.

As with all Gilbert and Sullivan operettas, the impact on popular culture is marked.  Opera Della Luna veered from tradition with their 2009 performance of The Sorcerer when rather than Aline falling for Dr Daly, it is the male lead Alexis who sees the curate Dr Daly and falls madly in love thanks not in part to his own meddling!

Bingley Gilbert and Sullivan have performed The Sorcerer on five occasions, most recently in 2011 which marked Richard Thompson’s last performance with Bingley Gilbert and Sullivan Society as the Sorcerer himself.

 

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A Family Affair

Our 2016 Production of The Pirates of Penzance is a true family affair!

Chairman, Producer, Cast at Bingley G&S

L-R Margaret Holliss, Isabella Earl, Sarah Earl

Our Chairman Margaret Holliss will be treading the boards once more, this time as a Pirate, whilst her eldest daughter Sarah Earl is one half of our brand new and exciting production team. Sarah’s daughter Isabella (aged 11) is making her full debut in the chorus as one of Major-General Stanley’s many daughters!  It is quite an achievement to have three members of the female line of a family in one production, and we’re very proud of them all!

In addition to producing the main production, Sarah is also producing the children’s version of The Pirates of Penzance with a cast of 34 five to eleven year olds – no small undertaking – with Isabella taking the stage as Ruth, the piratical maid of all work.  In addition, Isabella’s two brothers and two cousins will be in the chorus as pirates, policemen and a very small daughter!

Please do come and support our family affair.  As always, tickets are available from the Bingley Arts Centre Box Office on 01274 567983 or online via Ticketsource.

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Happy Birthday Frederick!

This year we are joining in the celebrations for Frederick’s natal day by putting on a riotous version of The Pirates of Penzance.  Staying true to Gilbert & Sullivan’s wonderful music and libretto, we are setting the scene somewhere very different……

Why not join us and find out where those dastardly Pirates of Penzance will be doing their buccaneering!

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Oh here is love, and here is truth

Well as it is Valentine’s Day, I thought what could be more appropriate than discussing the theme of love in the Savoy Operas.  It cannot be denied that love features heavily in all of Gilbert and Sullivan’s works – whether successful or unrequited – so here are my favourite Gilbert and Sullivan love themed songs!

Hearts Bingley G&S

5.  The Sorcerer – Thou Hast the Power Thy Vaunted Love

Possibly a bit of a cheat this one, as it certainly isn’t a love ballad and I actually find Alexis Pointdextre remarkably insufferable.  In this number Alexis berates Aline for not wanting to take a love philtre.   However the music is utterly beautiful and I’m a sucker for a gloriously sung tenor ballad.  

4.  H.M.S. Pinafore – The Hours Creep on a Pace

This is such a lovely song, with Josephine desperately trying to reconcile her love for Ralph Rackstraw with her duty to her father, the ship’s Captain.  As the song progresses you can feel Josephine’s lack of enthusiasm for Ralph’s lowly station, and the fact she might end up eating dinner “served up in a pudding basin”!  The whole song is made by the single line “and yet he is so wondrous fair” when you really feel her maidenly dilemma.

3.  The Pirates of Penzance – Oh Here is Love

A rather sweet little number, when Mabel has agreed to wait for Frederick until he comes of age on 29th February 1940.   The emotion in the song is truly obvious and its just a genuinely lovely moment in what is on the main a comedy.

2.  The Gondoliers – On the Day When I Was Wedded

I had to include this one – The Gondoliers is my absolute favourite of all the Savoy Operas.  This song absolutely slays me – with the formidable Duchess of Plaza-Toro giving lessons to her daughter on how to love a man you don’t and how she became the wife and husband in the relationship to her complete satisfaction.

1. Iolanthe – None Shall Part Us From Each Other

This has just simply the most beautiful lyrics, with Phyliss and Strephon declaring their love for each other that won’t be beaten despite the fact she is human and he is half a fairy.

I am not a massive fan of Iolanthe, but this is probably my all time favourite Gilbert and Sullivan song.

 

 

 

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A rollicking band of……..

Pirates we?

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Bingley Gilbert and Sullivan Society are delighted to announce their forthcoming production of The Pirates of Penzance……with a twist.

With all the beauty of Sullivan’s original score and the wit of Gilbert’s libretto in tact, our new young and vibrant production team have put a more modern and exciting setting on arguably the best loved of the Savoy Operas.

Tickets will be available very shortly from Bingley Arts Centre on 01274 567983 or by following this link to purchase online.

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