|W. S. Gilbert > Interviews > The Revivals at the Savoy
THE REVIVALS AT THE SAVOY.
MR. W.S. GILBERT INTERVIEWED.
FAVOURITE OPERAS AND WORK WITH SULLIVAN.
FROM OUR SPECIAL REPRESENTATIVE.
At his beautiful home in the heart of the country, far removed from the traffic of the stage, Mr. W.S. Gilbert gave, on Saturday night, to our special representative, an interview with regard to the forthcoming revival of the Gilbert and Sullivan operas at the Savoy Theatre.
"I know, however, very little about it," he began, "for the only communications I have had from Mrs. D’Oyly Carte are one that I received a fortnight ago, saying the revival was contemplated, and another this morning, saying it was decided, and that she has been trying to get some of the original artists, but without success."
"What has become of them?"
"Mr. Temple, Mr. Barrington, and Mr. Courtice Pounds are engaged elsewhere. Mr. Denny is in America. I do not know where Mr. Shirley and Mr. Brownlow are. Mr. George Grossmith confines his work to the entertainment platform, and Mr. Walter Passmore, who succeeded him at the Savoy, is engaged for Drury Lane. Miss Brandram is an invalid, Miss Bond is married, and has retired from the profession, and Miss Ulmar, Miss Hervey, and others are no longer available. So that until I see the company I can form no opinion of the prospects of the production. A great deal will depend, of course, on the character of the performance. I am going to superintend the rehearsals, and I shall do my best conscientiously to bring the company up to the requisite pitch of excellence, but, of course, I cannot hold myself responsible for the result. It is the very first time, during a professional career of forty years, that I have not selected or approved the cast of one of my pieces in a London production. Mr. Cellier will superintend the music, and the operas will be revived, without alteration, as they were originally produced. If the revival of ‘The Yeomen of the Guard’ is successful, it will be followed, I understand, by ‘The Mikado,’ and ‘The Gondoliers.’"
Views on the "Yeomen of the Guard."
"Is there any special reason why ‘The Yeomen of the Guard’ has been selected for the first of the series of revivals?"
"I really know nothing whatever about it. I was informed only this moring that the piece would be produced, although I had previously been given to understand that its production was contemplated; but of the reason for the selection I know absolutely nothing. Personally, I think it is far and away the best of the series. It is on a somewhat higher platform than the others, the dramatic story is told consistently, and it has no serious anachronisms. It is a work of a higher class than the others, and I believe Sullivan had the same idea with regard to the music. In dialogue and other ways, the others were irresponsible. I tried to construct ‘The Yeomen of the Guard’ on the lines of comic opera pure and simple, as it was understood in the days of Auber and Scribe; in point of fact, the plot of the piece would in itself supply the elements of an effective drama."
"And after ‘The Yeomen of the Guard,’ have you any special favourite?"
"The best of them all, I think, are ‘Ruddigore’ and ‘Utopia, Limited.’"
No Gagging Allowed.
"Do you see in the supply of musical comedy any change in public taste since the days when your operas were first produced?"
"All I can say is that people seem to like it. It has its merits, and at all events I have nothing to say against it. My own artistic sense, however, is opposed to leaving comedians to do exactly as they please in using the author’s libretto as a sort of skeleton framework on which to hang their own eccentricities. I have never myself permitted any unauthorised gagging. I have always told the company if they desire to introduce gags of any kind they must submit them to me first, and if I see no objection, I will allow them. But I must have the dernier mot, as I am responsible for the whole, and I don’t care to be credited with the humour of other people."
The Company’s Loyal Support.
Mr. Gilbert went on to mention that, despite all the performances of the operas in London and the provinces during the past twenty or thirty years, he had never seen a performance from the front of the house.
"How is that?" he was asked.
"I suppose it is because I am never satisfied with my own work. I always feel that it might be very much better than it is. That feeling has kept me out of the theatre. Except for some occasional modifications that may be made afterwards, my work is done as soon as I have finished superintending the rehearsals. And no author has been more loyally supported by his company than I. For twenty years I was in command of the Savoy stage, and I never had a material difference with any one of them. They were always most anxious to carry out my ideas in every way."
"What happens with regard to the rehearsals of the touring companies?"
"The stage manager takes notes at the original rehearsals of all my business, and for the provincial representations reproduces it exactly, so that the country companies are rehearsed on all the lines that I have laid down, and so far as the ‘traffic of the stage’ in those companies is concerned, it is precisely the same as that on the London stage."
The Perfect Harmony with Sullivan.
"Is there," Mr. Gilbert was asked, "any likelihood of your ever collaborating in any more operas?"
"No, so far as I can see. There are, of course, many excellent composers, but they are accustomed to a different style of piece. Sullivan and I always worked together in perfect harmony. We valued each other's contributions, and, where it was necessary, each gave in to the other. I fully appreciated the value and importance of his music, and wherever I could modify my views to meet any wish of his I always did so, and he would do the same for me. Our work was absolutely amicable and harmonious throughout. I never once had an angry or an irritating word with him in the course of the production of a piece. Whatever differences there were between us arose entirely outside the productions. But so far as our work went, we were always perfectly unanimous, and that is a good deal to say, seeing that the whole of the productions at the Savoy — so far as the plays themselves, the scenery, the dresses, the stage management, and every feature of the performance was concerned — were entirely in our hands. Mr. D’Oyly Carte had, of course, complete confidence in us, just as we had complete confidence in him in his management of the business side of the theatre, and he would no more have thought of interfering with us in our department than we should have thought of interfering with him in his. Each had his own department and confined himself to it."
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