Here is a list by PAUL McSHANE, with comments by ROBERT JONES and RONALD I ORENSTEIN.
PAUL McSHANE: I divide The Grand Duke numbers up into three:
Section A (Good):
No. 1 - "Won't it be a pretty wedding?" Sparkling, great Sullivan - this can take its place with the best opening choruses in G&S (Trial, Sorcerer). RONALD ORENSTEIN: Agreed - and it contains one of Gilbert's best jokes, "Till divorce or death shall part them"
No. 2 - "By the mystic regulation." The sausage roll song is fun - great to sing, and gets the plot going. RONALD ORENSTEIN: But it's middling as music - and was one of the things critics of the first production found tiresome.
No. 3 - "Were I a king in very truth." Great lyrics, and terrific choral accompaniment. RONALD ORENSTEIN: Agreed on the lyrics, but I think this is one of Sullivan's clumsiest tunes - he doesn't seem to know how to end the phrases, and the melodic contours seem very awkward to me.
No. 4 - "How would I play this part" Good, reminiscent of Mad Margaret's song, but perhaps a touch long. RONALD ORENSTEIN: Fun to watch, but negligible as music until the final duet (Oh, joy, when to glowing young hearts)
No. 7 - "Strange the views some people hold" I am a fan of G&S madrigals, and I think this underrated piece can hold its place with the best of them. RONALD ORENSTEIN: Agreed! ROBERT JONES: I don't think it's underrated; I find it dull.
No. 8 - "Now take a card and gaily sing" Well written, and a swinging tune. RONALD ORENSTEIN: A favourite of mine, too. ROBERT JONES: This song almost bores me.
No. 12 - "Come hither, all you people" . . . "Give thanks, give thanks." The opening of the Act I Finale has great chorus numbers and some good recitative. RONALD ORENSTEIN: I find the finale very patchy, with some good bits (Big bombs, and especially "Now listen to me, dear" with its very quaint accompaniment) mixed in with a lot of poor stuff - and I think the opening "Come hither" is rather dreadful.
No. 12e - "For this will be a jolly court." A typical rollicking Act I Finale conclusion. Particularly good, coming immediately after the vapid piece that precedes it. RONALD ORENSTEIN: One of the hits of the first night, too.
No. 13 - "As before you we defile." Very interesting to compare this with the quasi-virginal Act II opening of Patience - they are similar in style, but I think that The Grand Duke number is better. RONALD ORENSTEIN: One of the outstanding numbers in the piece, and very original - I think the resemblance to Patience is more to the opening of the Act I Finale, with all the flutterings in the orchestra in Patience resembling the "Opoponax"es in The Grand Duke.
No. 14 - "At the outset I may mention." As David Duffey has observed, this would have made a great Bab Ballad, but is flawed as an opera number. I agree - but the lyrics are masterpiece material in the right context. RONALD ORENSTEIN: Great lyrics, dreadful setting.
No. 16 - "Now, Julia, come." Better, and shorter than No. 4, and can be a show-stopper for the right singer. ROBERT JONES: I think this song would pass by without notice one way or the other, except for Julia's histrionics. And Julia would have to be very good to make it work. RONALD ORENSTEIN: But it's hardly a musical number at all - it is the recitation that stops the show.
No. 19 - "So ends my dream - so fades my vision fair" . . . "Broken every promise plighted." Again, Julia gets the best of writer and composer. As others have pointed out - this is a great number. RONALD ORENSTEIN: Well, I beg to differ - this is my least favourite number in the piece, and comes close to being the worst song G&S ever wrote. I always enjoy the show more when it is cut, and I am no fan of cuts! I think it is downright ugly - not a patch on the great soprano songs in (say) Pinafore, Mikado or Ida. Compare it to Elsie's song in Yeomen, a much better exercise in a somewhat similar vain. And the lyric is "Come mighty must" all over again . . . .
No. 21 - "Come bumpers - aye, ever so many" The Baroness best number; the phrase "Pommery seventy-four" is great, and keeps popping into my mind whenever I think of champagne (which is often). RONALD ORENSTEIN: I really agree about this, and do not understand why it is often cut - audiences respond very well to it in my experience.
No. 23 - "The Prince of Monte Carlo." It was a show-stopper on opening night, and (having played the Herald) I can attest to its impact. RONALD ORENSTEIN: Yes.
No. 27 - "Take my advice - when deep in debt" The best song in The Grand Duke. Gilbert and Sullivan met as Old Masters. RONALD ORENSTEIN: Yes, Yes! Gosh, I enjoyed trotting that one out in Philly . . .
Section B (Forgettable):
No. 1a - "Pretty Lisa, fair and tasty." I reckon that no soprano (possibly, no character) gets a worse part in G&S than Lisa - her musical moments are most forgettable. The lyrics in this number are poor, and the waltz tempo seems wrong. RONALD ORENSTEIN: Actually, I rather like the waltz - one of Sullivan's few attempts a la viennoise, and I think it works (besides giving the score its first taste of a continental style). ROBERT JONES: I like the lyrics, I like the music, and I like the waltz tempo! Ludwig is playfully fishing for compliments and Lisa playfully insults him. I wouldn't class it as a favourite, but it works for me.
No. 10 - "As oer our penny roll we sing." A very stodgy piece (compare with "Small Titles and Orders", set in similar circs). RONALD ORENSTEIN: Yes, but it is saved by the delightful habanera that concludes it.
No. 11 - "When you find youre a broken down critter." My least favourite patter song, despite the clever sewing machine orchestration. ROBERT JONES: Far from forgettable! Clever orchestration throughout and clever lyrics (though a few lines make me wince). Once again, it does need a very good performer to pull it off. RONALD ORENSTEIN: I'm of two minds about this number. It's very clever and unusual, but I agree that it doesn't quite work for some reason - I think it is because the actual tune is not very good. And it certainly is not a patter song!
No. 12c - "Oh listen to me, dear." Cloying, holds up the action, cuttable. RONALD ORENSTEIN: See above - I strongly disagree. So, as I recall, did Gervase Hughes, who hated The Grand Duke but liked this bit (and "If the light of love's lingering ember").
No. 12d - "The die is cast." Arthur Robinson agrees with me that this is the worst number in the canon - mainly Gilbert's fault. ROBERT JONES: Total disagreement here! This is a lovely song. It probably drags the action a bit, but that's all I'll say against it. RONALD ORENSTEIN: A poor lyric, but I'd rather listen to it than to "Broken ev'ry promise plighted" any day.
No. 15 - "Yes, Ludwig and his Julia are mated!" . . . "Take care of him" Nothing of consequence in words or music. RONALD ORENSTEIN: A poor recit but I rather like the half-humorous tone of this piece.
No. 25 - "Were rigged out in magnificent array." Dreadful Gilbert (" . . . accordingly, as sich"), and the music isn't much, either. ROBERT JONES: Not quite, perhaps, forgettable, but not really up to scratch. I can't for the life of me work out why Gilbert came up with "sich". RONALD ORENSTEIN: Actually I love the music to this, especially the little chorus cadenza at the end - one of the most distinctive entrance pieces in the canon (name another like it!)
Section C (the rest of the pieces):
Perhaps I think them only so-so. ROBERT JONES: And my effort has exhausted me beyond looking for what you left out, so I won't comment on the rest. RONALD ORENSTEIN: "The light of love's lingering ember"? A really superb number, with its clever counter-mixing of the two tunes at the end. One of the show's highlights.
Page created 23 March 1998