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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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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