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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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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