Gilbert and Sullivan Archive




Paul McShane: I'd like to mention the opening number. It is tacky, and goes on far too long. The opening chorus is my least favourite of all the opening choruses - it doesn't say anything, and the lyrics are blah. This is followed by incessant recitative. Larry Garvin, in probably the best posting on the current OOTW to date, [See the discussion of plot construction in the LIBRETTO section.] referred to the dialogue after the opening number, in which the Spaniards did nothing but talk, talk, talk - but really, so much of the opening number is the same thing, only disguised as recitative, isn't it? The fact that some of it is in quasi-Italian doesn't alter the fact. It's a pity that we can't weed out the wheat from the chaff, because the wheat

A. Antonio's song and chorus, when the opera REALLY starts,

B. Marco and Giuseppe's duet, and

C. Gianetta's clever 2/4 solo with 3/4 accompaniment

-is really lovely. Marc Shepherd: "Chacun a son gout," but I have rarely seen a statement on Savoynet with which I more vociferously disagreed. The opening sequence in THE GONDOLIERS is one of the masterpieces of extended musical writing in all of G&S. I rank it very highly in this regard with:

From the first to the last note, the opening number of THE GONDOLIERS explodes with Italianate sunshine. It brims with youthful romance. It portrays youth at its peak of enthusiasm, establishing a perfect foil to the plot complexities that will be introduced when the Ducal party arrive. I find nothing tacky about it at all. Nick Sales & Ronald Orenstein agreed with this, the latter going on to add: This whole scene is quite wonderful to hear and to sing. Furthermore, it must have been satisfying to Sullivan and to his audiences, because he did the same thing in his next opera. HADDON HALL also opens with an extended musical scene, starting with an overture with a chorus sung behind the curtain, leading to an opening chorus with dance, a madrigal, a (ghastly) song for Dorcas and a reprise to round it off. Other than Dorcas' song it contains some of the best music in the opera, and indeed its dance was interpolated into Sorcerer by the D'OC for some time (anyone have details?). I posed a message early on asking about Decima Moore and Frank Wyatt and their abortive G&S careers which no one has picked up on, but I will risk tossing in another: Originally, instead of the duet "Ah well-beloved", Luiz sang a ballad, "Thy wintry scorn I dearly prize". Does it still exist? If so, is it musically similar to the duet (the lyric of the duet is a reworking of the ballad lyric)? [This started another thread. See LUIZ'S LOST SONG] Also - Gilbert seems to have gone out of his way to give every major character in GONDOLIERS a song (even Luiz) - except Casilda. Why the exception? Was a song for Casilda ever planned? Neil Ellenoff: I guess we really all do have much different likes and dislikes. I love the opening of The GONDOLIERS. To me it is over 30 minutes of uninterrupted melody. I get a feeling of warmheartedness and rollicking good nature that many of the others do not have. At least not to the same extent.

Bruce Miller: It does not surprise me that there are some who don't care for the opening sequence in GONDOLIERS. It appears there is a significant group, no doubt a minority, of fans who are more interested in Gilbert's words than Sullivan's music. Generalizations are dangerous, but in my admittedly unscientific observations, I've noticed that the "word" oriented people tend not to be thrilled with The GONDOLIERS.[See also General Thoughts about the Opera for another thread.] Bill Snyder: I feel I'm form-oriented and the formal structure of the GONDOLIERS opening is such that instead of the usual opening chorus followed by the usual expository material, the audience is led through the exposition by the shaping of the opening. Then, by the time the audience actually hears the first spoken words they are in the thick of the plot! That's pretty canny writing IMHO. If Gilbert thought he was taking a back seat to Sullivan, then he was listening to the opinions of people who couldn't appreciate a good libretto if someone hit them over the head with a score of OTELLO or MARRIAGE OF FIGARO (OW! that would hurt!) Michael P Walters: Very interesting indeed. I suppose I could be said to be word orientated, since I am more interested in Gilbert than in Sullivan. GONDOLIERS is fairly low on my list as a stage show, but I love listening to the music on record - specifically the Lytton recording. And I love the opening sequence. Taken as a single entity, I think its one of the finest things Sullivan ever did. Tom Shepard: I heartily agree with you. It is beautiful, elegant, wonderfully paced dramatically. It's twenty-plus minutes of verbal and musical sunshine. I am really surprised that there are those among us who have so many negative reactions to it, but that's the way it is with show business. The first time I heard GONDOLIERS, probably in 1949 when the LPs were released, I was absolutely blown away by the breadth and beauty of the opening sequence. But then again, I was a mere child; what did I know?


Paul McShane: If one could generalise about the best features of the G&S operas as a group, one would have to rank the end of their Act I finales way up there close to or at the top. In the main, they have high dramatic content and/or a rattling good tune for the cast to dance to and the audience to hum as they stream out at the interval break. In other words, the operas climax at the end of Act I. But what about GONDOLIERS? No drama, no exciting lyrics (Away we go to a balmy, yes) and no rattling tune. Maybe the music is clever, with its pitch and roll suggesting the gondola-turned-Xebeque wallowing in the Adriatic, but clever music does not a G&S finale make. I think its the least thrilling Act I ending in the series. If you couldn't agree with me about the start of the GONDOLIERS Act I, perhaps you'll agree about its ending. Tom Shepard: You are correct that the first act finale of GONDOLIERS has little or no dramatic tension because everyone is so happy about their apparent futures. No apparent problem of dire magnitude is anticipated by the protagonists. It is amazing how this lack of dramatic energy made it tough for WSG to write interesting thoughts. For example: one to three haul, when the breezes are blowing, we shall all stand still---all this stuff--- goes nowhere and says little. But perhaps there is something to be said for mindless and sunny jubilation. What saves the scene is the nostalgic closing music as the girls say goodbye to the gondoliers. The music expresses a kind of longing or wistfulness instead of just frolicking about. I find The GONDOLIERS to be extremely pleasurable, but it has never really stuck with me emotionally. Perhaps most of the characters are just too dumb or are so lacking in emotional depth. The standout exceptions are places like "If from my sister I were torn...." and "Oh my darling, oh my pet"----but these are clearly exceptions.

David Duffey: Is it the only occasion in the canon when the conductor sub-divides the 4/4 into eight? ("O My Darling" I mean)? There is some fiddling about in Margaret's entrance, and Point's entrance too, but I cannot think of any other instances off-hand of chopping up the beat. John S. Shea: While I won't claim that the end of the Act 1 finale is exciting, I think it is dramatically and musically satisfying for what it is trying to do - to capture the anticipation and the sense of loss felt by the men sailing off to Barataria and the women they leave behind. The big climax has come some minutes earlier with "All shall equal be" and "Hail o king." There is much else to like in the earlier pages of the finale: Gianetta's "Kind sir," the "regular royal queen" quartet (is there another number quite like this in G&S?)--wasn't it encored in full on opening night in 1889?--and the setting that Sullivan did for "O my darling, o my pet," especially in the way he differentiates between Gianetta and Tessa although Gilbert's lyrics for both have the same meter.

Harriet Meyer: Paul McShane's characterization of the Act I finale is debatable in some instances. He says that the GONDOLIERS Act I finale has neither a catchy tune nor dramatically-compelling content. However, I find the gondoliers' tearful separation from their spouses one of the most poignant moments in the canon. I would agree there's no catchy tune, but the music at that point is well-suited to the dramatic situation. Bruce Miller: No catchy tune???? "And oh, my darling, oh, my pet" is surely one of the most glorious melodic inspirations Sullivan ever wrote! Paul, I rarely disagree with you, but I think you've missed the gondola on this one. As to the excitement factor, the oceanic music which closes the finale, "Then away to an island fair," in which is contrasted the bracing music of the sea voyage with the pangs of separation by the lovers is, for me at least, one of the pair's more brilliantly characterized emotional moments of the entire canon. It is also, musically, one of the more difficult ones to make work, and requires stellar forces all around, especially the M.D. A good many amateur productions may not fully succeed in bringing out the full grandeur of that section.

Bruce Miller: A further thought on melodic fecundity in this movement; am I the only one who thinks "For everyone who feels inclined" is a pretty darn good melody? How about the "right down regular royal queen" quartet? Paul McShane: No, Bruce, of course you're not, and I think these are great numbers, too. It is interesting, isn't it, that you and others think that Gianetta's solo towards the end of the finale is the greatest thing since sliced bread, and I plus others (including Helen Roberts) find that it is a drag - and we hold different opinions in the opposite direction about the UTOPIA Act I finale - yet we both passionately will defend the brilliance of the operas to all comers. The ability of G&S to overwhelm people is various ends of the musical and dramatic spectrum is an enduring monument to their genius. Bruce Miller: The joke melody on "replying we sing as one individual" isn't bad either; nor is "Away we go to a balmy isle", in both the choral version and, perhaps more especially, the melody Marco sings. In short, the suggestion that this finale is short on melodic inspiration doesn't really hold up on examination - but of course this is only one man's OPINION. Nick Sales: Right behind you in all this, Bruce, particularly Marco's bit. I get more gratification from singing that syncopated few bars, climaxing on the ff top A "Blow". A really good "blow-out", that one (apologies to pun sufferers). William Florescu: Regarding those two wonderful melodies in GONDOLIERS....when I directed the show last summer, I fell in love with those two numbers in particular.. my choreographer did a wonderful hoedown knee slap bit on Royal Queen.. It's interesting though, gondoliers leaves me a little cold as compared with some of the others though I do adore sections of GONDOLIERS. .Ronald Orenstein: A strange fancy has crowded upon my poor mad brain, thus: the refrain to the royal queen quartet is based on four pitched, each played TWICE (e.g. glor-ious thing-I ween-to be-a...). See what happens if you repeat each pitch FOUR times instead of twice. If you are like me, you will be vaulted into a much earlier Savoy opera....


Aaron Hunt: Having performed, in my distant youth, the interesting and vocally tiring role of Luiz, I wish to contribute a note as to this role's intrinsic difficulty. {Mark Beckwith: So all you other Baritone Samuels out there - did you ever take a hit off LUIZ?? THAT'll kill you 'til you're dead....} Aaron Hunt: When Luiz first enters with the Ducal party, his vocal line is definitely in the tenor register, sitting on f above middle c while the text chatters away. However, in the duets with Casilda, the vocal line is too low for a tenor ever to really sit comfortably in the "cover", and the orchestration seemed to me, in my youth and innocence (does anyone have a picture) to be heavy and rather ponderous in color. The duets, then, might be better rendered by a high baritone. Tell me, how do you account for this? Bruce Miller: The entire role of Luiz is a baritone role. In ensemble, when he needs to sing an F, he need only touch it lightly; and in any case, a good baritone has no fear of an F. Mark Beckwith: That's a little oversimplifying I think. Look for a moment at the bloody TESSITURA! Would that all 'baritone' roles had an 'occasional' high note (on a good vowel). I can't speak for anyone else, but I've done Luiz. I am (what other people call) a high baritone. I was much more tired vocally after Luiz than, say, Grosvenor or even Captain Corcoran (who has higher notes). A good baritone doesn't "fear" an F. We love them. Under certain circumstances. This does not count singing the tenor part of a quartet ensemble. Then they're just a pain in the butt. But we still have to sing them in tune. And not so loud that you can't hear Baron Picadoro. David Craven:I completely agree with Mr. Miller.... it is a baritone range and falls rather easily within the Baritone range. As for the coloration, I don't think that coloration is written into stone, but personally I prefer having a Luiz with a bit of baritone colour in the sound, but that's because I am a baritone...William Florescu: I'm sorry, but Luiz is a's the color that determines it. A baritone could sing it, but it would throw the color off in those first act ensembles. Michael P. Walters: But Sullivan cast the role with a baritone, Wallace Brownlow. Michael Scott Gillett: And It was continually cast as baritones (very often the understudy for the Barrington roles) by the D'C until the mid to late '30s when it swung between baritone and tenor interpreters. In the mid-60's to the end of the D'C, it became the almost sole domain of the tenor understudy. Being a tenor and having sung the role, I found it tended to sit a little low and would cause me to drag a bit of my chest voice into my passagio. A piece of cake for the lyric baritone who sings Florian in IDA. Michael Rice: The Glyndebourne tenor is Alexander Young...very much a respectable British tenor (though he does great justice to the role's lower passages). I believe (vocally speaking) that he is the best Luiz on record. Nick Sales agreed.

Bruce Miller: The determinant of voice part is tessitura; color is a secondary characteristic which only modifies the definition. Luiz's tessitura is firmly in the baritone territory. His top note is, if I recall correctly, an F, which he only touches occasionally. In his solos he is quite obviously centered in a baritone range. As to ensembles, a 'competent' baritone is quite capable of singing it acceptably without upsetting the balance. I have heard and seen it done. To assume that Sullivan wanted more of a tenor "color" in the ensembles is risky. On what basis do you make that statement? Nick Sales: Yes, it's certainly not a tenor role as such, though I would argue a reasonable tenor would be able to do it well (e.g. Geoffrey Shovelton in the latter 1970's recording), and I personally prefer to hear it sung by a tenor-type baritone. - (taking care here not to start a re-run of the voice classification wars of a few months ago) - I played the part when my voice was not really settled; I was in between a baritone and a tenor. My comfortable range at the time was, I suppose, high F# down to Bb, and I found it comfortable at all times to sing. One instance where some baritones may struggle is during the duet with Casilda "When Alone Together"; here he needs a solid and assured top F on "ah beloved" near to the conclusion of the duet. The note is exposed, and if not quite right can sound terrible. However, Bruce is correct that the note (and the role) ought not to be beyond any good baritone, though I would of course argue that it would suit one whose voice tended towards a lighter tone/timbre. Bruce Miller: I entirely agree with Nick's comments. It should be remembered that Sullivan was writing for a specific singer, and used his (presumably) best notes. The artist, Wallace Brownlow, was a very young man when he created the role of Luiz; he was undoubtedly a light baritone with a good high range. Michael Walters: Probably, but it is of interest to note that he had previously understudied Richard Temple as Sir Roderic Murgatroyd. Bruce Miller: Michael, Do you know if he ever got to sing it in performance? It appears that Mr. Brownlow had a flexible voice, to say the least. "When the night wind howls" and the recitatives prior to it are certainly of a very different species from Luiz's music. Michael P. Walters: He is supposed to have sung a few performances, but I don't actually have proof of that. Bruce Miller: The part of Luiz is akin to the soprano role in Mendelssohn's Elijah, which was written for Jenny Lind. Sopranos ever after have cursed Mendelssohn for hovering around F sharp in "Hear ye, Israel", which was a particularly gorgeous note in Lind's range, but is not necessarily easy for most, shall we say more normal, sopranos.

William Florescu: I cast a tenor as Luiz last summer who had a bit of a darker color..and I actually sang some rehearsals (I'm a baritone) and didn't find it difficult..I just think he balances the Duke and Alhambra better as a tenor. Rica Mendes: It was my impression that the person we had play Luiz in GONDOLIERS a couple of years ago was not a baritone. At the "darkest', wasn't he a baritenor?

David Francis: The recent debate reminds me that this was a point over which DOC wavered. When I first saw GONDOLIERS, Luiz was played by Jeffery Skitch, a baritone who also played Corcoran, etc. That was in 1961, but a little while later, he had been succeeded by Philip Potter, very definitely a tenor - and something of a matinee idol, I believe. Talking of Jeffery Skitch, I was always somewhat surprised at the time that the Company needed both him and Alan Styler at the same time - seemingly swapping Strephon, Pish-Tush, etc. around over the years. Are those parts, and the number of them, really so demanding as to require a doubling of principals, as DOC did for the tenor and soprano leads?

William Florescu: Whether or not, an f is beyond a good baritone is really irrelevant. In fact, most operatic baritones need a good a. It's how one sings the note. A baritone will use more "cover" on an f, producing a darker, mellower sound, whereas a tenor will sing a more "open" sound, because of having a higher break...In musical theatre, some of this goes out the window because of "belting" technique. Sorry, this is my voice teacher side coming out!! Jeff De Marco: Would that be an example of "Can Belto?" William Florescu: Exactly!

Bill Snyder: In the cobwebby recesses of my mind I seem to remember that one of the eminent patter baritones sang Luiz when starting out with DOC. Nick Sales: I think (mind I say I think) you'll find that it was Lytton - I was amazed when reading his autobiography how many roles he had performed. David Duffey: Sorry to interrupt - I think it was Martyn Green. Lytton had made his debut before GONDOLIERS was written - he might have been the first US Duke. Jeff DeMarco: Green's early role was Antonio of FTMFAWTLTLTLTLLLLTLLL fame. He tells the story of his dispute with Sargent over the tempo of that selection - Sargent was concerned that the chorus words would be lost at the faster tempo Green wanted so he could dance - until Green pointed out that the words were "Tra la..." Philip Sternenberg: I believe Martyn Green said Luiz was his own first DCOC role. Lytton's DCOC career began, I believe, filling in for George Grossmith in the original RUDDIGORE run; i. e., before there ever was a Luiz. Tom Shepard: I know that Lytton played Strephon. I am less sure about Luiz, but all this is a matter of public record and can easily be verified. One of the compilations, perhaps it is THE ART OF THE SAVOYARD shows Lytton as a light baritone, duetting with his wife. It's quite a surprise, given what we know of his later vocal prowess.

Gene Leonardi:

Being a "performer" type myself
And very interested in the question of tessitura.
Replying to the question of Luiz's vocal locale,
I say, IMHO
That though his range (on paper) is baritonal, he is
Extremely difficult for baritones to handle well.
Now why this should be, I don't know.
Only that, in practice, the "color" of the voice
Really makes a difference in this part.

This is unscientific, but Luiz just doesn't sound the same in a baritone voice and I personally will put Luiz into my private list of --------- roles!


Larry Garvin: In "There lived a King," Sullivan originally quoted the first couple of bars of "Yankee Doodle" to accompany Marco and Giuseppe when they sing "Of shoddy -- up goes the price of shoddy!" (Actually, the quote is under only the first two words.) Much to my dismay, the Eulenberg score of GONDOLIERS mentions the quote, but doesn't supply the scoring. Has anyone here reinstated the quote? Did it work? (This Yankee thinks it rather a good idea; anyway, if Sullivan thought the quote might dissuade Americans from seeing GONDOLIERS, his worries were misdirected, for the show bombed in its first US production.) Bruce Miller: Larry: We restored it for the VLOC in 1991; in looking at the flute part we used, the pitches were: d | g g a b | g b a d | -- 'but' I seem to recall that afterwards, on checking the source, the line Sullivan used was: d | g g a b | g g f# d | -- I'm not near the appropriate source right now; perhaps someone can confirm this. Phillip Sternenberg: This may help: In Oswald's patter song in HADDON HALL, "Yankee Doodle" is quoted as so | do do re mi | do do ti so | do do re mi | do -- ti -- i. e., a transposition of what you "seem to recall" as Sullivan's line, instead of so | do do re mi | do mi re so | do do re mi | do -- ti -- as we usually sing it. Sullivan would probably have quoted it the same way in both operas. Gordon Pascoe: I'd be interested in knowing the source. A version of Yankee Doodle probably widely known to Sullivan (and his English audiences) might have been a little different from either, though still recognisably the same fiddle tune; it has a different feel. In eighth notes (half & quarter notes shown as tied eights) g-g a b g-g f# d / (measure repeats)/ g-g a b c b a g / f# d e f# g-g-g-g. The repeat of the A music is a variation fairly remote from the original. The B music is in a minor key and its repeat is quite remote. The form is: A1, B1, A2, B2. (Source: Fiddler's Song Book, ed. Peter Kennedy, mostly from the compilations of British Isles "living" fiddle music by Cecil Sharp in the late 1800's). Bruce Miller: The "source" was 'Sullivan's' "A", i.e. his autograph full score. As I don't have access right now, either in the flesh or photographically, I'm relying on memory which may be fallible.


Ronald Orenstein: Originally, instead of the duet "Ah well-beloved", Luiz sang a ballad, "Thy wintry scorn I dearly prize". Does it still exist? If so, is it musically similar to the duet (the lyric of the duet is a reworking of the ballad lyric)? Also - Gilbert seems to have gone out of his way to give every major character in GONDOLIERS a song (even Luiz) - except Casilda. Why the exception? Was a song for Casilda ever planned? Michael Rice: What song does Luiz sing? It seems to me that his only singing is with Casilda in the first Act. Is there a "missing song" that was cut? Mark Beckwith: Isn't that at the end of the show - 'A Drummer-Boy But Yesterday' ? Tom Shepard: No, it's "Is Life a Boom? But your response is terribly funny and I don't mean to compete---it's only that once I get started like this, it's hard to stop.Then Charles Schlotter: I think you are both in error. It was an inserted number by Victor Herbert: "Oh Suite Mystery of Life." Ted Rice: Perhaps the latest version of the "lost" song is the Saint Luiz Blues...

Ronald Orenstein: In the midst of all this knee-slapping hilarity, could I bring the question back to the one I asked earlier? Does the music for Luiz's REAL lost song, "Thy wintry scorn I dearly prize", exist? Tom Shepard: Sorry. I make jokes but have little or no historical knowledge. But I'll ask John Wolfson, he might have the answer. Douglas Whaley: Indiana University at Bloomington has a well known opera school. In the early 1970s they presented The GONDOLIERS and included this song for Luiz, along with some dialogue in Act II that I had never heard in wherein (for reasons I no longer remember) the gondoliers insisted that their wives call them new names, one of which was "Tom," to which one of the wives replied, "But it seems so English." Does anyone know where this dialogue came from? The New York production, perhaps? Marc Shepherd: This dialogue is found in Gilbert's papers at the British Library. It was cut before the London opening and was not performed in New York either. However, I have heard of a number of productions such as the one Doug referred to that experimented with restoring it. Ronald I. Orenstein: As I recall, this is indeed pre-first-night Gilbert - "Tom" being the name of the single individual Marco and Giuseppe are, ipso facto, boiled down to.

Updated 27 March 1998