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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