Review transcribed by Helga J.
Perry, 4 January 2001
|The Dramatic World. "THE GONDOLIERS."
The Musical World 1889 December 14 69(59):
892 [unsigned review]
The weekly journalist,
amongst certain other advantages, possesses this at least over his brother
of the daily journal, that he often escapes a great deal of trouble by
the – possibly unintentional – kindness with which the latter sets forth,
some days in advance of him, the details of the plot of new plays, operas,
and the like. Thus all the world is perfectly familiar with the story of
the new Savoy opera, produced last Saturday to the usual crowd of amateurs
and others, to whom the first night of a piece by Mr. Gilbert and Sir Arthur
Sullivan is, not unnaturally, a "nuit blanche" in more senses than
one. We say not unnaturally, because the passion for amusement is shared,
more or less avowedly, by us all; and the present generation owes much
to the ingenious collaborators who have so constantly provided it with
refined, but not less real, amusement. Entering the Savoy one may leave
behind him, to be well forgotten in the roaring Strand, his favourite theories
on the value of the more professedly serious work attempted in other spheres
by either artist. Here there can be no questionings, no blank misgivings.
They have created for us a form of artistic entertainment peculiarly their
own, in which, if more heroic qualities are lacking, there are present
those not less desirable for "daily food," of wit and ingenuity in the
story, of humour, grace, and wonderful craftsmanship in the music. Therefore,
let us contentedly give thanks to the twin brethren who, returning to their
older and happier manner, have presented us in "The Gondoliers" with so
irresistibly bright and piquant a piece of work.
As has been suggested,
there is little need that we should repeat in all its details the quaint
and ingenious story which Mr. Gilbert has devised. It is sufficiently characteristic,
this story of the prince who, kidnapped in very early youth and entrusted
to the charge of a "highly respectable gondolier" in Venice, has been brought
up in such complete ignorance of his birth that when the search is made
for him no one knows which of two boys he is, and accordingly both must
be taken to Barataria to rule as dual king until the secret is solved.
It is from this situation of course that Mr. Gilbert derives most fun.
Being only one king the unhappy pair get rations only for one of them,
and very amusing are the shifts to which they are put to eke out a respectable
living. Through what straits the two are compelled to pass, together with
the poverty-stricken Duke and Duchess of Plaza-Toro, and by what ingenious
means the problem of the heirship to the throne is settled need not here
be repeated. Sir Arthur Sullivan, it is to be gladly admitted, has in the
setting of the story touched the highest point of success yet attained
by him. The score is throughout a marvel of grace, melody, and skill. Lighter
in character than the "Yeomen of the Guard," but not therefore trivial,
every page abounds in haunting melodies or pieces of masterly orchestration.
Tessa's song, "When a merry maiden marries;" the quartet, "Then one of
us will be a Queen;" Marco's delightful air, "Take a pair of sparkling
eyes;" the Cachuca; and above all the marvellously clever quartett, "In
a contemplative fashion," are all instances of the felicity and genuineness
of the composer's inspiration. If Art, as viewed from one side, may be
defined as the perfect adaptation of technical methods to the expression
of emotion – whether sublime or ridiculous – then "The Gondoliers" is,
on its own plane, very nearly a perfect work of art. And as it lies on
same plane with the mind of the great mass of amateurs it is safe to predict
it for a lasting success.
It remains only
to speak of the performance, which was in all ways worthy of the occasion.
To Mr. Rutland Barrington – heartily welcomed back to his old stage – and
Mr. Courtice Pounds as the two heroes; to the sprightly Miss Jessie Bond
and Miss Ulmar as Venetian girls; to Miss Brandram as the Duchess,
Mr. Frank Wyatt as the Duke, and Mr. Denny as the Inquisitor one comprehensive
word of the highest praise must be accorded. A promising début
was made by Miss Decima Moore as Casilda, who, although but in her eighteenth
year, sang and acted with surprising verve and vocal skill. The
mise en scène, it will readily be believed, was perfect in
all points; and the same may be said of the manner in which the chorus
and orchestra, under Sir Arthur's own guidance, discharged their duties.
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