The Complete Annotated Gilbert and Sullivan

The Complete Annotated Gilbert and Sullivan

The Complete Annotated Gilbert and Sullivan

The Complete Annotated Gilbert and Sullivan

Synopsis

The comic operas of Gilbert and Sullivan are a performing arts phenomenon. Wildly popular when first produced, they are if anything even more popular today. The Savoy Operas are available on records and compact discs, on audio and video tapes, on television, film, and radio, as well as through the more traditional medium of stage performances by both amateur and professional companies. Indeed, the works of Gilbert and Sullivan are produced more frequently than the plays of Rodgers and Hammerstein or any other musical partnership. The Complete Annotated Gilbert & Sullivan provides the complete text of all thirteen Gilbert and Sullivan operas still performed today, from Trial by Jury and The Sorcerer to Utopia Unlimited and The Grand Duke, and including all their greatest triumphs--H.M.S. Pinafore, The Pirates of Penzance, and The Mikado. No other book provides such extensive commentary on the texts of the Savoy Operas. Each work is thoroughly annotated, with the text, including stage directions, given on the right-hand page, and the notes on the left (keyed by line numbers). The annotations provide a wealth of information--everything from the identity of real-life people mentioned in the opera, to clear explanations of obscure words and phrases (such as legal terms) and other literary references, to comments from first-night critics, and much more. In addition, Bradley has written a marvelously informative introduction to the book as well as superb introductions to each piece, describing the genesis of the work, its performance history, and other fascinating tidbits (for instance, Sullivan wrote the music for H.M.S. Pinafore while wracked with pain from a kidney stone, and he wrote the score of The Pirates of Penzance while living at 45 East 20th Street, in New York City). A goldmine of information on the most popular light operas in the repertoire, The Complete Annotated Gilbert & Sullivan will delight the hearts of Savoyards everywhere.

Excerpt

On the morning after the opening night of The Gondoliers in December 1889 W. S. Gilbert wrote to Sir Arthur Sullivan thanking him for all the work that he had put into the piece. He added with rare magnanimity: 'It gives one the chance of shining right through the twentieth century with a reflected light.'

The works of Gilbert and Sullivan have, indeed, continued to shine right through the twentieth century. In fact, they are almost certainly more widely known and enjoyed as it draws to a close than they were in its early years. This is in large part due to modern technology which has made them available on records and compact discs, audio and video tapes, television, film and radio as well as through the more traditional medium of stage performances by both amateur and professional companies.

What are the reasons for the enduring popularity of the Savoy Operas? Undoubtedly the nostalgia factor is an important one. At a time of shifting values and rapid change, roots and tradition have come to assume considerable importance. The burgeoning heritage industry, which seems to be turning just about every other derelict industrial site into a working museum or theme park, testifies to the appeal of the past, and especially of the Victorian era which seems to stand for so much that we have lost in the way of reassuring solidity and self-confidence. The operas of Gilbert and Sullivan undoubtedly appeal to many people today because they are a genuine piece of Victoriana, as authentic as William Morris wallpaper, the Albert Memorial or a Penny Black stamp.

Half the charm of the Savoy Operas is that they are so dated. They seem to breathe the innocence, the naïvety and the fun of a long-vanished age. Even when they were written, of course, they had a strong element of pure escapism with their fantastic topsy-turvy settings and plots. Now, a hundred years on, their mannered dialogue and topical references to themes and personalities that have long passed into the realms of history give them an added quaintness sas period pieces.

There are those who feel that our strong attachment to the works of Gilbert and Sullivan is part of the British disease of always looking backwards and never looking forwards. In a letter to The Times in December 1990 Sir Graham Hills, Principal of the University of Strathclyde and member of the Board of Governors of the BBC, proposed, apparently in all seriousness, a moratorium for at least five years on performances of the Savoy Operas. He wrote:

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