||HJP 5 November 2000
The production of a new work by Messrs.
Gilbert and Sullivan concerns a musical journal in a limited sense only.
Music here takes a very subordinate position, and is severely handicapped
by the clever sallies and preposterous puns of Mr. Gilbert, which, although
amusing enough in themselves, are not very congenial to the most serious
of arts. Every credit is due to Mr. Sullivan for doing what, under such
circumstances, he has done on this as on many previous occasions. Again
he clings, with the desperate energy of a drowning man, to the few points
of genuine sentiment vouchsafed by the author, and again he manages
to wed pretty if not very original tunes to the, musically speaking,
most irrelevant words ever put together. There is, moreover, nothing
in his score that is absolutely commonplace or vulgar, if we except
the close of the first act, which reminds one painfully of the typical
finale (with cancan obbligato) of the French opera bouffe. To
the general style of that entertainment Mr. Sullivan's music of "Iolanthe"
is as superior as are Mr. Gilbert's words. The prevailing character
of the score is sufficiently indicated by the above remarks, to which
it is necessary to add only that the regulation number of "patter songs,"
sentimental ditties, short ensembles, and noisy march tunes,
will not be looked for in vain by those who take a delight in such matters.
Gilbert and Sullivan's joint productions have by this time established
a type of their own, and of that type "Iolanthe" is an excellent specimen.
The performance, carefully superintended by author and composer, was,
in its way, perfect, and the enthusiasm of the public on the first night
knew no bounds. Mr. Grossmith, Mr. Barrington, Mr. Temple, Miss Leonora
Braham, and Miss Alice Barnett materially aided the success of the rendering.
These excellent artists can scarcely be classed amongst vocalists proper,
but many an operatic star might learn from them how to pronounce their
words with unfailing distinctness, also how to suit intelligent dramatic
action to those words.
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