What the Musical Playgoers
||"Iolanthe" and the Savoy
||4, col. 7
||HJP 3 May 2005
Authors and Composers of the
of Gilbert and Sullivan.
By A NON-MUSICAL CRITIC.
I have no
particular love for the music that is described as "classic" and "severe"
- in these matters it is best to be candid. Yet I take comfort in the thought
that ninety people out of a hundred labour under a similar disadvantage,
if it can be called a disadvantage, a point which is open to argument.
of the partially educated ninety per cent. go to a musical play we look
for humour in patter and dialogue, sweet melodies in thye love songs -
such melodies as we can remember and hum sentimentally to ourselves as
we cab it homewards - and stirring harmonies when the chorus gets into
full blast. Perhaps in this we are asking too much - at any rate, we very
rarely get it nowadays.
is doing good business," say the agencies. "Not a seat in the house,"politely
smiles the face at the box-office. Exactly. Gilbert and Sullivan is the
ideal of the partially educated ninety per cent., and has been since the
like the Savoy to be set aside as a temple until fate sends to our distracted
comic-opera stage a similarly gifted pair. We desire it to be preserved
as our Bayreuth, where we can seek sanctuary in the days to come, when
the voice of the American is still louder in the land, and we are driven
to desperation by the obvious inanities that stand for jokes, the vulgarities
of horse play that do duty for humour, and the blatancies of teh inevitable
"rag time" cake walk.
Our Comic Operas.
our own comic-opera stage distracted is perhaps a sweeping assertion. There
have been many catchy tunes at the Gaiety and Daly's - tunes that sound
admirably when applied to the piano-organ. Mr. Adrian Ross has a delightful
vein of sarcastic humour, and the words of his lyrics are always worth
the rest the authors seem to rely more on the beauty of the "show" ladies
and the personality of the leading comic man than on the jokes or songs
they give them. They are well aware that for Teddy Paine to appear as a
toreador or a fireman or a messenger boy is enough to send the Gaiety into
fits of laughter. With Huntly Wright at Daly's it is the same; so it is
with Arthur Roberts or Willie Edouin. But the personal popularity of the
actor is presumed upon by the authors - or so it seems. For without his
gags and grimaces the modern comic opera would be a poor business.
thing of pleasure "Iolanthe" is! It pleases the eye, it charms the ear,
it tickles the humour. We laugh over the topsy-turvydom of the plot just
as we chuckle over the gentle satire that lies in the stories of Brer Rabbit
or in the famous trial of teh Knave of HEarts. What can be more delightful
than Lord Tolloller's appeal:-
A Point of Law.
Spurn not the nobly born
Nor treat with virtuous scorn
High rank involves no shame -
We boast an equal claim
With him of humble name
To be respected!
* * * *
Hearts just as pure and fair
May beat in Belgrave-square
As in the lowly air
situation could be more humorous than that in which the Lord Chancellor
is placed when endeavouring to convince himself that legally he is a suitable
person to whom he may marry his ward?
Victory! Success has crowned my efforts, and I may consider myself engaged
to Phyllis! At first I wouldn't hear of it - it was out of the question.
But I took heart. I pointed out to myself that I was no stranger to myself
; that, in point of fact, I had been personally acquainted with myself
for some years. This had its effect. I admitted that I had watched my professional
advancement with considerable interest, and I handsomely added that I yielded
to no one in admiration for my private and professional virtues. This was
a great point gained. I then endeavoured to work upon my feelings. Conceive
my joy when I distinctly perceived a tear glistening in my own eye! Eventually,
after a severe struggle with myself, i reluctantly - most reluctantly -
best of all is the defence of the House of Lords intrusted to Lord Mountararat:-
When Britain really ruled
the waves -
Queen Bess's time)
The House of Peers made no pretence
To intellectual eminence,
Yet Britain won her proudest bays
In good Queen Bess's glorious days!
And while the House of Peers withholds
And noble statesmen do not itch
To interfere in matters which
As bright will shine Great Britain's
As in King George's glorious days!
for the music, most of us know it by heart, and like it all the more for
that. What memories of teh past it revives! Those far-off flower-shows
at the Temple, when we sat in our dusty chambers while the notes of teh
Coldstreams came floating throug hthe open window; those country race meetings,
where the dainty measures of Phyllis and Strephon were massacred by the
brasses of perspiring Volunteers; those minstrels at Henley, and pierrots
on the beach.
It is long
years ago since we first heard "Good morrow, good mother!" or "Oh foolish
fay"; but we sit and rejoice over them as much to-day as we did nigh on
twenty years ago.
point that must strike us. The authors of comic opera to-day hope to find
laughs in the smartest slang, the latest catchword. In five years' time
their productions would have to be re-written - if anyone could be found
who would think it worth his while to do so.
the exception of "Patience," the Savoy operas are made to endure. There
is scarcely a jest in "Iolanthe" that is not as fresh and poignant as on
the day it was written.
House of Lords is abolished and the peerage thrown open to competitive
examination - which, I take it, must be a matter of time - until there
is law reform of a sweeping kind, there need be no changes in the play.
Captain Shaw, of the Fire Brigade, no longer directs his hoses, and the
half-fairy Strephon introduces a topical touch in the remark that one of
his human Radical legs is a pro-Boer. But these are minor matters.
is in good hands. Miss Isabel Jay is as pretty as she is clever, and sings
most sweetly. We all lose our hearts to her as a shepherdess - in truth,
she looks as if she had skipped out of a cabinet of old Sèvres.
Mr. Henry Lytton, Mr. Passmore, Mr. Crompton, and the rest are worthy successors
of those who figured on the old playbill dated November 25, 1882 - George
Grossmith, Rutland Barrington, Jessie Bond, Miss Fortescue, and Leonora
B. F. R.
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