A Most Ingenious Paradox: The Art of Gilbert and Sullivan by Gayden Wren

By Gayden Wren

Written greater than a century in the past and in the beginning appeared even through their creators as not anything greater than mild leisure, the fourteen operas of Gilbert & Sullivan emerged over the process the 20th century because the world's hottest physique of musical-theater works, rating moment in basic terms to Shakespeare within the heritage of English-language theater. regardless of this resounding acceptance and confirmed durability, such a lot books written concerning the duo have interested by the authors instead of the works. With this specific exam of all fourteen operas, Gayden Wren fills this void. His daring thesis unearths the main to the operas' sturdiness, no longer within the smart lyrics, witty discussion, or catchy song, yet within the vital topics underlying the characters and tales themselves. Like Shakespeare's comedies, Wren exhibits, the operas of Gilbert & Sullivan undergo due to their undying subject matters, which communicate to audiences as powerfully now as they did the 1st time they have been played. Written out of an abiding love for the Savoy operas, this quantity is key examining for any devotee of those mesmerizing works, or certainly for somebody who loves musical theater.

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S. Pinafore, despite those operas’ greater room for development. Even the jurymen have a collective identity that, in protean form, foreshadows the authors’ later mastery of chorus characterization. Trial by Jury offers a smattering of other hints of things to come. Edwin’s use of an onstage guitar suggests Dr. Daly’s flageolet in The Sorcerer, Captain Corcoran’s mandolin in H. M. S. Pinafore, and Lady Jane’s cello in Patience. There’s Gilbert’s first sneer at aging women. And “When I, Good Friends” is a clear progenitor of “how I got here” patter songs such as H.

Clary, who appeared in the “leading man” role of Sparkeion. The Sparkeion-Nicemis duet, “Here, Far Away from All the World,” may seem reminiscent of future tenor-soprano duets such as “Were You Not to Ko-Ko Plighted” or “None Shall Part Us from Each Other,” but it unquestionably sounded much different as a duet for two women. These extraneous considerations affect nearly every aspect of Thespis, tainting whatever in it may reflect Gilbert & Sullivan’s actual inspirations. For example, the prominence given to the drunkard Tipseion, whose plot importance is extremely minor, is hard to understand until one learns that Tipseion was played by Robert Soutar, who happened to be married to the star, Nelly Farren.

The dramatic structure of The Sorcerer is similarly awkward. In keeping with the loosely knit structures of most previous opera, The Sorcerer’s scenes rely heavily on the “revolving door” technique, wherein one set of characters enters, speaks and sings a song, then exits together as another set enters for the next scene. The problem with the revolving-door technique is that it breaks narrative momentum: Each scene is followed by a momentary pause, after which new characters take up new issues instead of developing the ideas in the previous scene.

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