Gondoliers > 1958 D'Oyly Carte Production
Tradition is very much part of the performance of Gilbert and Sullivan. The D'Oyly Carte Opera Company preserves that command of Sir William Gilbert, a meticulous director of his work, that every word should be clearly spoken and as clearly heard. For many years the Savoy operas have been part of the English scene. This year's opening night of the winter season at the Princes Theatre in London revealed new costumes and sets for The Gondoliers. These settings of Venetian canals and the Palace of Barataria are gay and charming.
In a production that was swifter than previously and at the same time respected the traditions laid down by Gilbert, the wit of both the words and score was freshly amusing. The New Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Isidore Godfrey, played with elegance, enabling the audience to appreciate the subtlety of much of Sullivan's music. That innovations were to the taste of lovers of Gilbert and Sullivan light opera was shown by the vociferous demands for encores and the prolonged applause. The other works in the company's repertoire were eagerly awaited to see whether refurbishing had been carried out on them as well.
It was after the production of The Gondoliers in London in 1889 that the rift arose between author and composer over the famous incident of the carpet. The last two collaborations were not successful. Thus The Gondoliers is in some ways the last of the line of Savoy operas. Remembering that when the final copyrights run out in 1961, fifty years after the death of Gilbert in 1911, all sorts of innovations will be possible, it is to be hoped that the D'Oyly Carte Opera Company will maintain their worthwhile traditions.
This production of The Gondoliers with Peter Goffin's new costumes, opened on December 15 a three month season in Gilbert and Sullivan revivals. While using the seventeenth century as a basis for his costume designs, Mr. Goffin has avoided merely "dressing" the opera in period fashion: his designs are intended to emphasise the familiar characters of Gilbert's purely theatrical Venice and Barataria.
The Gondoliers is an example of how careful Gilbert was to base his fancies on fact. In a letter to Sullivan sketching the plot, he wrote: " The Venetians of the 15th century were red-hot Republicans. One of their party is made king and invites his friends to form a court. They object because they are Republicans. He replies that he has considered that and proposed to institute a court in which all people should be equal... In Act 2 the absurdity of this state of things is shown."
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