(How to get there - 330 Homer Street, Newton Center, MA)
Sunday January 19 at 2:00 PM
We'll all want to revisit this classic, and share it with our friends in Newton!
DON SMITH writes: The Story of Gilbert and Sullivan is a classic film from the "Golden Era" of movie musicals. The 1953 semi-fictionalized 'bio-pic' provides a reasonable look at the history of the famous partnership - the collaboration, the triumphs, the quarrels. While the film does take liberties with historical accuracy, the very heavy emphasis on excerpts from most of the operas featuring Martyn Green, Thomas Round and many other stars of the D'Oyly Carte Opera Company provides a flavor of G&S performance which can only be imagined now. Robert Morley provides an outstanding performance as W. S. Gilbert, with Maurice Evans as Sullivan and Peter Finch as Richard D'Oyly Carte.
Tentative Meeting Schedule, 2002-2003
Welcome, Welcome, Welcome We New Members Thurman Smith and Susie Gray. Thurman is an appreciative audience member - while apparently Susie has other appreciative Savoyards in her family: her membership was a gift from her niece, Sarah Kenyon. We hope to hear more about these new members --
Have you renewed your membership in NEGASS yet? Janice Dallas, at 63 Everett St., Arlington, MA 02474-6921, is waiting for your check and your information form!
FALL PERFORMANCES! NEGASS has not held a formal meeting since our Master Class on October 6. Instead, members have been revelling in the many local G&S productions of November and December. Here are the reviews We've been sent so far. Iif anyone has another, don't be shy - send it in, and it will be printed in the next issue!
SLOC MIKADO IN CARLISLE [review #1] This November, I had the pleasure of playing in the orchestra for the Savoyard Light Opera Company's production of MIKADO. It was a fine production with a strong cast, wonderful sets and costumes, and (though I say it who shouldn't) a crisp and sparkling orchestra.
The curtain rose on a vision of red lacquer woodwork, shoji screens, cherry blossoms, and Mt. Fuji in the background, which smoked or erupted, as the occasion demanded. Colorful kimonos, elaborate head-dresses, Kabuki makeup, and atmospheric lighting continued the theme. From the opening men's chorus, "If you want to know who we are", the cast sounded robust and enthusiastic.
Kim Bolling, as Yum-Yum, and Timothy Carew, as Nanki-Poo, were ideal, sweet of voice and sincere of gesture. Chris Snell's Ko-Ko was delightfully droll, and John Bennett's Pooh-Bah had enough genuine nobility to justify his pre-Adamite ancestral descent. There was luxury casting in the gorgeous voices of Stephanie Mann as Pitti-Sing and Benjamin Cole as Pish-Tush. "Brightly dawns our wedding day" was as lovely a G&S number as I have heard, with beautiful style and flawless intonation.
Schall Gouillart as Katisha sent her rich mezzo sailing over the full
orchestra in the Act I finale, and returned for a moving "Alone,
and yet alive" in Act II. Bob Russell was a powerful Mikado
of Japan, and the citizens of Titipu were in glorious voice throughout
the evening. Congratulations to stage director Margot Law, music
director Fred Frabotta, and the entire production team for an excellent
SLOC MIKADO IN CARLISLE [review #2] The question in an opera as complex as MIKADO is always: How far will they go? In the case of the Savoyard Light Opera Company this past November, quite far indeed. With elaborate costumes, full-fledged kabuki makeup, a hugely talented orchestra, and a spectacular set, SLOC met the challenge nicely under the direction of Margot Law. The performance also showcased some of the most impressive performers I've ever seen in these particular roles.
The show was off to a marvelous start with the appearance of Timothy Carew (Nanki-Poo), who not only has the voice of an angel but accomplished the rare feat of making "A wand'ring minstrel I" fun to watch. The subsequent "Our Great Mikado," sung by Benjamin Cole as Pish-Tush only served to up the ante; it's a pity that there was no better place to put the phenomenal Cole than in this comparatively tiny part.
The most noticeable gap in this performance was that SLOC was desperately hurting for choreography. Too often the characters were left to make stinted, improvised movements during their grand songs; merely assigning them business to attend to would have improved the situation. This caused numbers like "Taken From the County Jail" and "Braid the Raven Hair" to appear awkward and slow. John Bennett as Pooh-Bah was one of the only people who managed to appear physically engaging despite the obvious lack of direction.
The men's chorus was excellent; the women were a little too timid at times and difficult to hear- schoolgirls or no, it's nice to understand the words. On the subject of schoolgirls, Kim Bolling is a very cute Yum-Yum, and Stephanie Mann as Pitti-Sing showcased some comic potential (here I am remembering her swinging a sword wildly around her head as she sings "his cervical vertebraeee...").
Chris Snell as Ko-Ko gets points for liveliness, but his exaggerated antics and distorted lines were a frenetic quest to obtain the audience's affections; put simply, it got old very shortly after he arrived onstage. It worked fine for character-centric numbers like "As Some Day It May Happen" and "Willow, Tit-Willow," but too often he made the dialogue and ensemble-heavy scenes unpleasant with his boisterousness.
John Bennett had the Pooh-Bah affect down pat, and despite Snell's best efforts to upstage some of his punchlines, he was certainly the audience's darling. His comic performance in "So please you sir, we much regret" was one for the books. He was outdone a little in "Young man, despair" by the formidable combination of Carew and Cole chiming in for the chorus - those two really ought to run out and audition together as The Gondoliers or some other set of parts that would pair them in song. They sound magnificent together.
I was bowled over by "Sing a merry madrigal," done almost completely a capella. It was one of the few genuinely well-staged moments in the show, as the depressed singers nurse cups of teas while an exasperated Peep-Bo (Allison Corke) looks on.
Bob Russell's Mikado was rather hilarious, though his repeated pauses to laugh maniacally during "A More Humane Mikado" would have been more effective in smaller quantities. He, did, however, have some of the best comic timing in the show and by far the finest use of the snapping fan (a stage direction staple in any performance of this show).
The show ended gloriously, with the exception of one soprano's tragic decision to screech the final note a full octave above the company, and off-key. A fine metaphor for a show that was fantastic, albeit with a few cringe-inducing moments here and there. My hat goes off to Margot Law and company, and, as usual, the incomparable Laura Schall Gouillart, whose astronomically excellent performance as Katisha is outdone only by her fine performance as my mother. Kudos to all.
DELIGHTFUL PIRATES AT MIT: The MITGASP production of PIRATES provided an afternoon of sheer delight. The men's and women's choruses were spirited and fully characterized, with fresh young voices. The orchestra, under the baton of Jimmy Jia, was sprightly and tuneful. Among the many excellent leads, Graham Wright as the Pirate King (think Kenneth Branagh with a shaved head) and Stuart Stanton full of charm as Frederick were standouts. MIT junior Sonya Tang as Ruth and Evan Xenakis as the Major General were also irreproachable.
As expected, the MIT influence popped up here and there. The Act II set included a topiary beaver, and slipped into the program notes and ads were two parodies of the Major-General's song (e.g. "I am the very model of a modern Software Engineer,/The code I write is destined for huge networks running peer-to-peer ")
Among many excellent touches from director Brian Bermack were the girls' marching band with air-trombones, drums, piccolos, etc. during "When the foeman bears his steel"; the flirtations between the pirates and girls behind the back of the Pirate King and Major General during the "orphan/often" dialogue; and the pirates' entrance for "With catlike tread" from the back of the auditorium holding their knives in their teeth. Frederick's absurdly formal attire in Act II seemed to realize the fantasy expressed in the lost verse of "Oh, is there not one maiden breast": "Oh, do not spurn the pirate's tear,/Nor deem his grief unreal and frothy;/He longs to doff his pirate gear/And turn tall-hatty and broadclothy".
The one weakness in the cast was freshman Miranda Kaufman as Mabel. The girls' chorus was lively and appealing, full of wide-eyed joy, and they all had such wonderful hair-in braids, in ringlets, in ribbons! Then Mabel wandered in looking drab and drear with stick-straight hair held back by a wide white band, and never a facial expression. There was no chemistry between Frederic and Mabel, and inexplicably they never even touched during "Ah leave me not to pine".
also could have done without several interpolations from the movie: the
cathedral setting imposed via lighting on "Hail, Poetry", and
especially the Patter Trio from RUDDIGORE. The latter may
be fun for the singers, but it's silly at a serious moment and it destroys
the developing trajectory of Frederick's character. It was a (small) blot
on the otherwise sincere characterization that made the rest of this production
so thoroughly enjoyable.
MIKADO HACK NIGHT AT HARVARD: I am submitting a review of the Harvard-Radcliff G&S production of MIKADO, while hoping that some other member saw the same show and wrote a review. [We haven't received one - did anyone write one?- mlc] I went to the last show - Hack Night - without realizing just what a H-R hack night was. I've seen and been in crew shows, but never seen an entire production burlesqued before an audience. So I have to try to extract what may have been out of all the fooling around.
The orchestra joined in the fun, but did its usual first-class job. The horns used to be weak, but I now have no complaints. They have improved greatly.
Samuel Perwin (Nanki-Poo) and Laura Puglisi (Yum-Yum) sang well together. I can't guess how they acted during the regular run, since the sendup was mostly play-as-you-go, with more attention paid to the lines than the action. "Three little maids" became "Three hot little ho's are we, fresh from the women's penitentiary". Dan Spitzer (Pish-Tush) , James Maltese (Ko-Ko), and Sam Gale Rosen (a hilarious Pooh-Bah) did the "I am so proud" as Groucho, Harpo, and Chico. Again, I don't know if this was the regular run or the hack, but it worked. They even popped in a "see-hear-speak no evil " pose. Rosen spoke with a heavy rasp to his voice, but sang clearly. He could have saved a little wear and tear on his throat. I did ask him how much of his act that night was put-on compared to other nights. "A great deal." So he was having fun on his last shot.
Having fun. I will have to make more hack nights. The liberties taken with the lyrics in "Little List" would horrify a purist. In "Miya Sama" they sang a list of Japanese corporations, reading it off the palms of their hands. When Ko-Ko presents the coroner's report, Pooh-Bah, instead of saying "I am the coroner" lifted his head and sang, in falsetto, the Munchkin's verse that the witch was officially dead. Two full minutes before the show could move on from that one.
Caroline Jackson (Pitti-Sing) has a great flair for humor, pantomiming behind Yum-Yum with a paper lantern during "The Sun whose rays". When the song got to "the Moon's Celestial Highness", you guessed it. After all, it was hack night. She stood out of the spotlight during "Alone, and yet alive" and signed the song in American Sign Language. She has the sense you expect in Pitti-Sing.
The standout voice was Andrea Jabus (Katisha). That night she was made up in heavy green makeup, so thick it looked like cake frosting. She still had her makeup on in the Green Room. I would like to see the face that voice was coming out of.
Bo Meng played Mikado. It's hard to extrapolate his regular performance. His whole act was a throw-away, played as child-scaring clown, with heavy samurai/clown makeup. Someone else will have to write him up.
Members of both men and women choruses sang well, and enjoyed themselves immensely.
The Director was Holger Scott, the Choreographer Mike Morris. During the Madrigal, four chorus members came out in black kung fu suits and mimed 3 executions: a hanging, a beheading, and an electrocution. At the moment of death they would flash bright red handkerchiefs. A bit macabre, perhaps, but it displayed a concept, an great idea. I recall the last time HR did MIKADO in '97. The only scenery was a revolving door. The choreography of movement through that door during the madrigal was inspiring.
I shouldn't compare. The '97 production was the best choreography I've ever seen; this production stands on its own.
REVIEW:Gilbert and Sullivan: A Dual Biography
My collection of G&S books sits about eight feet away from where I'm now typing: seven shelves, almost floor-to-ceiling. There are very few books on those shelves that I feel have truly set the standard for G&S scholarship: Allen, Baily, Benford, Jacobs, Stedman, Rollins & Witts.
To these must now be added another. Gilbert and Sullivan: A Dual Biography is a landmark in the field: simply the best thing of its kind, and a remarkable achievement that we may not live to see bettered. If you read no other book on G&S, you must read Ainger.
The dust jacket describes it as "the first joint biography of Gilbert and Sullivan based on original research in over half a century," a claim that is fully justified. Its honored predecessor was Leslie Baily's The Gilbert and Sullivan Book (1952; revised 1956, 1966). Baily had, at the time, unprecedented access to original sources, but he was more a storyteller than a scholar. Some of his account crosses the boundary from fact to fiction, and he is often unclear about his sources.
Beyond Baily's intrinsic limitations, the landscape has changed since 1952. The D'Oyly Carte papers, donated to the Theatre Museum after Bridget D'Oyly Carte's death, weren't available to Baily. (It is not clear how much of the Gilbert or Sullivan papers Baily saw, but he clearly had access to a good deal of them.)
Ainger, unlike Baily, has scrupulously documented everything he did. There are nearly 1,500 footnotes to his thirty-six chapters, plus a prologue and an epilogue. He appears to have covered thoroughly the three major archives (Morgan Library, British Museum, Theatre Museum), Sullivan's diaries, contemporary periodicals, and reminiscences of Gilbert & Sullivan's contemporaries. Ainger was apparently determined to find out everything for himself: he relies only occasionally on secondary sources.
At 504 pages, Anger's book is a tad longer than the Jacobs bio of Sullivan, and 130 pages longer than Stedman's bio of Gilbert. Yet, despite having to cover both men, there is no sign of the relentless compression that some reviewers found in Stedman.
One quickly discerns why: W. S. Gilbert's birth is reported on page 1 of Stedman's bio, but not till page 16 of Ainger's. Until then, Ainger takes us on a leisurely tour of the family backgrounds from which these geniuses sprang: first the Gilberts, beginning with Schwenck's great-grandfather (he a grocer); and then the Sullivans, beginning with Arthur's grandfather (he a soldier in the army who eventually deserted). Not content to report the accepted wisdom about Sullivan's grandfather's heroic army career, Ainger researched the Public Records Office to get the real story.
This same patient attention to detail informs every chapter. To be sure, there is less that is truly new that Ainger can tell us about the years of the partnership itself, but almost every chapter has a surprise or two. For instance, did you know that Patience was originally intended to open in America, as Pirates had done? A memo amongst the D'Oyly Carte papers shows that Carte had an agreement with one Henry E. Abbey of Booth's Theatre, in New York, for a new Gilbert and Sullivan opera to open on 29th November 1880. (The papers don't show why this scheme fell through, but we know it took a while longer for Patience finally to be ready.)
a handful of manuscript Gilbert lyrics in the D'Oyly Carte papers, and
some of them are quoted here for the first time. For instance, the chorus
before Ko-Ko's entrance in The Mikado was originally to
have gone like this:
How about this chilling letter from Helen Carte to her solicitor, entertaining the idea of cheating both Gilbert & Sullivan in an attempt to defeat Gilbert's Carpet Quarrel lawsuit:
While most of the letters exchanged during the Carpet Quarrel have been well rehearsed elsewhere, Ainger lays the groundwork for it by showing that, even as early as Pirates, Gilbert had very little use for Carte. Much more interesting is Ainger's coverage of the later, mini-quarrels, such as that with Sullivan over their financial arrangements for Utopia, and several with Helen Carte over the casting of the 1900s revivals.
Another treasure from the D'Oyly Carte papers comes in this 1898 letter from Sullivan to Helen:
Helen did not accommodate him, as Sullivan's next letter reveals: "
all it is only a question of a miserable thousand pounds," he writes.
The exchange admirably bookends another incident much earlier in his career,
when he asked a friend to loan him a much smaller sum, and was likewise
Gilbert kept track of how often he went swimming; from his diaries, Ainger informs us that he had already been in the pond twenty-three times in 1911, including twice on 28th May, before that fateful day on the 29th that was to be his last. It is a minor detail, but one that tells us that Gilbert had every reason to consider himself a secure swimmer.
There are many other incidents related in the book that have not been reported before, but I shall stop here. Surely you have the idea by now.
The book presents its three main subjects (for it is as much about D'Oyly Carte as it is about G&S) fairly, and without rose-colored glasses, but also without any axe to grind. Most of the time, Ainger reports just the facts, though commentary occasionally creeps in. For instance, noting Sullivan's infidelity to Fanny Ronalds, he suggests that Rachel Scott Russell would probably have been, in the end, very unhappy as Mrs. Sullivan.
If Ainger fails in any dimension, it's in the illustrations, of which there are perhaps twenty to thirty throughout the book, presented in low quality black and white, and few of which are particularly interesting. But as there has been an ample number of lavishly illustrated books on G&S (including Baily's fifty years ago), we don't miss them much here.
Ainger's research is, as far as I can tell, practically free of error. I found a handful of tiny mistakes that are so insignificant as to not be worth reporting. Even a book as detailed as this must leave some things out, and at times it's frustrating to see a letter or diary entry represented by just a phrase in quotation marks - and the rest paraphrased - when one knows there's much more. Still, at over 500 pages one hardly has any right to complain.
who've read my reviews in the past know that I am not an easy man to please.
Michael Ainger has done it. By all means read Gilbert and Sullivan: A
Dual Biography. You'll be glad you did.
SULLIVAN BAND MUSIC The Specialist Recording Company, which has been presenting a series of single-composer military band CDs, recently released a CD performed by the Band of the Irish Guards (Director of Music Major Andrew Chatburn) which has won praise from the British Sullivan Society. SRC 106 The Lost Chord was recorded in Wren Chapel at the Royal Hospital Chelsea, resulting in an attractive "live acoustic" orchestral recording
Michael Purton, managing director of the company, points out: "Music such as Sullivan's was nearly always immediately transcribed for military band and this is how most of the public would have heard Sullivan's music - played by a military band, perhaps on bandstands in parks or on a seaside pier, or at a ceremonial occasion. The playlist contains a number of rarities, including several parade ground marches derived from Sullivan's music, which have lain in the British library for perhaps 100 years."
For ordering info, call Andy Dayer at (00)44 (0)1582 769366 or e-mail him at email@example.com. Or contact Michael Purton at firstname.lastname@example.org or (00)44 (0)1892 523004 for further information.
see Stephen Turnbull's review and the specially commissioned cover
design, and for more information about purchasing the CD, visit http://www.cris.com/~oakapple/gasdisc/sullinst-irishguards.htm
[nb: this page does not open completely in Netscape 4 or earlier!]
READABLE SORCERER PIANO-VOCAL SCORE: I am pleased to announce that my new vocal score of SORCERER is completed and available for purchase.
As with my vocal score for IDA, I have completely reformatted the music for clear and easy reading. This edition features all the dialogue and stage directions, modern typeface, and clear assignment of voice lines in the chorus.
cost per score is $18.00, plus $3.00 shipping to
If you have any further questions, feel free to e-mail me at email@example.com.
Chorus books for SORCERER and IDA will be available soon.
IN-PROGRESS PDF BRAY ARCHIVE We've been posting PDF versions of recent Brays on the web. What does this mean? It means that if you have a (free and easily accessible) copy of Adobe Acrobat Reader on your computer, you can print out a copy of the issue you want, looking pretty much the same as the copy you received in the mail - in case you lost your old copy, or want to give a copy to someone else. Ultimately, We hope to create a more nearly complete archive of old Brays in PDF format.
ABOUT CONTRIBUTING TO THE TRUMPET BRAY:
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