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 1888 The Yeomen of the Guard premiered in London’s Savoy Theatre.  The eleventh collaboration between W.S.Gilbert and Arthur Sullivan, it ran for 423 performances.

Tower Of London

The only one of the Gilbert and Sullivan canon to be set in an actual place, the opera takes place in the Tower of London during the 16th Century.  Unlike many of the operettas, The Yeomen of the Guard takes on a more sinister and much darker undertone.  Although there are the usual comic moments and witty one-liners, the operetta remains more subdued than others by the duo.  The libretto particularly is of a more unusually complex style, being early-modern English in nature.

The overture of The Yeomen of the Guard is unusual in that it takes a sonata form, rather than being a mix of other songs from the production.  Again, perhaps most unusually for the work of Gilbert and Sullivan, Yeomen does not finish with the traditional “guy gets girl” happy ending, rather with Jack Point finishing the operetta heartbroken, amidst two very reluctant engagements.  The first Jack Point was of course the incomparable George Grossmith, a stalwart of Gilbert and Sullivan’s work.  In fact Jack Point’s finale ballad “I Have a Song to Sing O” probably remains one of the best loved – and most shocking – pieces.

George Grossmith

In perhaps a nod to the more serious nature of The Yeomen of the Guard, Arthur Sullivan’s memorial in The Victoria Embankment Gardens carries the quote “Is life a boon? If so, it must befall that Death, whene’er he call, must call too soon”.

The Yeomen of the Guard remains one of the more ambitious productions for amateur societies to put on owing to its substantial cast and the requirement for authentic looking uniforms and weaponry for the Tower Warders.  Very difficult musically from principal parts to chorus, Yeomen remains truly rewarding to take part in.

Bingley Gilbert and Sullivan Society have performed The Yeomen of the Guard on 7 occasions, the most recent being 2014 to which we received a delightful response from our audiences.

 

 

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What are your Favourite Things?

You can soon find out what OUR favourite things are, we’re delighted to announce our 2016 Autumn concert.

Entitled “Our Favourite Things”, we are delighted to bring to you an evening of songs from modern musicals.

The concert will take place at Bingley Methodist Church on Saturday 26th November at 7.30pm.  Tickets cost a mere £10 for a musical feast and can be purchased by telephoning 01274 568617.

Bingley Gilbert & Sullivan 2016 concert flyer

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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!

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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