Gilbert and Sullivan Archive



Bruce Miller: GONDOLIERS is not my very favorite of the G & S operas, but I keep a special place for it in my affections because it has so much heart. Gilbert was often accused of an incomplete understanding of such things, but it does seem that the central idea of the piece is a tribute to the joys of youth and the ultimate triumph of love and optimism. The obvious satire of communism/socialism is there, of course, but only as a plot device to further the higher, more general goal. The GONDOLIERS succeeds so well because Gilbert's tone is reflected in a musical outpouring from Sullivan, melodically inspired and beautifully orchestrated, with special emphasis on dance. It does seem also that the success of the GONDOLIERS depends on some knowledge of the previous works in the collaboration. The authors do nothing especially new in the opera, but often do them with a new twist, or to a higher level, than previously. Paul McShane: GONDOLIERS, the Mills and Boon of the Savoy series, is an opera with particular appeal to women. Plenty of froth and bubble, with lots of pretty, pretty passages signifying absolutely nothing. There are lots and lots of tuneful songs, gentle satire, the patter and dialogue are good and the dancing terrific. But somehow, the whole seems to be less than the sum of the parts. Why? - I suppose it's like having a feast of creme caramel.

Bill McCann: Jessie Bond believed that the more than usual number of big parts in The GONDOLIERS was Gilbert's attempt to put down a group of artists who thought that THEY were responsible for the success of the operas. She also believed that the line, "They all shall equal be" in the Act One finale served to underline that point. But did it also refer to the ultimate solution to the "cipher quarrel"? Does the opera also reflect other aspects of the personal situation of Gilbert and Sullivan at the time? Or are we in danger of reading too much into what may be no more than an accomplished satirist's tilt at the growing political fashion for communism/socialism? Ronald Orenstein: One interesting point here is that two of the major roles were taken by artists who had never before (I think) appeared at the Savoy and apparently never did again - at least in G&S. Decima Moore (Casilda) appeared in THE NAUTCH GIRL and JANE ANNIE, and took over a role (which one?) in THE ROSE of PERSIA part way through its run. Why was there nothing for her in UTOPIA LIMITED and GRAND DUKE? As for Frank Wyatt (DUKE), he seems to have disappeared after THE NAUTCH GIRL - indeed, part way through its run. Rollins and Witts do not even list them in touring companies.

Bruce Miller: 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. Andrew Crowther: This sounds reasonable. I'm very word-orientated myself, and I place GONDOLIERS very low down on my list of the operas, possibly last. (Entirely subjectively, of course, since I recognise that it's a much more accomplished work than, say, THE GRAND DUKE.) I think it's all to do with what you expect from G&S. I like Gilbert's sharp side, and naturally I'm dissatisfied when he doesn't give it to me. It seems to me that it's Gilbert's voice that is dominant in most of the operas, and Sullivan simply has his little niche in the framework that WSG had created. But Sullivan gradually grew more and more dissatisfied with this arrangement (I don't blame him!) and so we find in YEOMEN and GONDOLIERS Gilbert conceding more, allowing Sullivan's voice to make itself heard much more clearly than in the previous operas. It's an indication of my gnarled and crabby tastes, and nothing else, that I can't work up much of an enthusiasm for YEOMEN or GONDOLIERS. I suppose I must accept the fact that I'm a Gilbertian and not a Sullivanian.

Neil Ellenoff: This is not my favorite G & S opera but is close to it. I guess I also admire the way G & S after so many collaborations could manage to instil it with youth and vivacity. Robert Jones: And colour! No-one has said "colourful" yet. It's in all the books. Sandy Rovner: Just to get my tuppennies in: I adore THE GONDOLIERS, start to finish. It is a never-ending joy to me. Despite a few little philosophical caveats.

Harriet Meyer: On the March 6, 1891, command performance at Windsor Castle, Tony Joseph writes in his D'Oyly Carte history: "Quite clearly the Queen enjoyed it, following the dialogue in her book of words like any occupant of a Savoy stall, beating time to many of the songs, laughing frequently, and being particularly taken with the 'Right-Down Regular Royal Queen' quartet."

John S. Shea:Is it just me, or does Sullivan seem to hear Gianetta as bright and chirpy, but Tessa as warm, sultry, even sexy? (Maybe I am too much influenced by the first recording I heard of the opera, with Winifred Lawson and Aileen Davies, but I do think that the music Sullivan wrote creates distinct characters.) In general, I'm very much in the pro-GONDOLIERS camp. The book is no dramatic masterpiece but it sufficed as an occasion for Sullivan to write a remarkably sunny score with a relaxed charm that suggests the Mediterranean.

Page created 30 June 1997