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The Gilbert and Sullivan Archive   1924 G&S Season

This article would be incomplete without some reference to Mr. Toye's orchestra and to the audiences. The orchestra is inspiringly magnificent, alike in quantity and quality, and it is fortunate in having such exquisitely orchestrated works to perform. Sullivan was not only a master of melody: he was also a master of the science—for it is a science—of orchestration, and it is rarely indeed that one encounters such perfect orchestral balance and such entire sympathy between the instruments and action proceeding upon the stage. The orchestration succeeds being, in a sense, onomatopœic, without becoming ridiculous. The only complaint I have about the music as given this season is that at times items were taken too fast; but whether this is the fault of orchestra or artists I do not know, and am far too timorous to suggest.

The audiences, like the operas, are unique. For one thing, they are almost exclusively British, and, for another, they are drawn from every class, and all are pleased in the same degree. Their reverence for the operas is so great that any who venture to continue conversation after the overture has commenced are very speedily reprimanded by loud, angry hisses from all parts of the theatre. One of our leading humorous writers told me that a Gilbert and Sullivan 'house' resembled a congregation rather than an audience; and it certainly resents any interference, or lack of due reverence, as fiercely as any sect of religious devotees.

It is pleasing to see those who knew and loved these operas, when they were first produced come again and bring their children and their children's children. The tradition is now surely established, and it is well that it should be. In these days of clamour, when, in the pursuit of sensation and of novelty, we are often apt to forget the restraints and overstep the bounds of discretion, and sometimes of decency as well, this appreciation of entertainment which, though innocuous, is never tedious, is a welcome sign. It is, unfortunately, very often true that the more worthy and less harmful things are not attractive; that respectability wears a cloak of hypocrisy, and masks a dullness which is stifling to the progressive mind. These operas, however, combine an entire absence of anything even remotely objectionable with a variety and charm which greatly exceeds that of almost all recent works. Many of the allusions are already 'out of date,' more will become so. Yet the operas will go on until the 'out of date' of the present becomes the historical of the future.

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