Gilbert and Sullivan Archive



TODD B. SOLLIS: Before automatically dismissing all of The Grand Duke as "bottom of the heap", do yourself a favour and listen to Sullivan's score. Once you get past the admitted idiocy of sausage rolls and the statutory duel, I promise you, you're in for some special musical pleasure.

TOM SHEPARD: The orchestration is among Sullivan's finest.

NEIL ELLENOFF: Pretty close to first rate. I think it is the best score Sullivan wrote with anyone in the 90's with the possible exception of Ivanhoe, if that is indeed 90's.

ROBERT JONES: If our lists of best/worst were based solely on Sullivan, I'd put The Grand Duke in the top three or four. Even given the problems of the book.

MARC SHEPARD: Incidentally, I think The Grand Duke has the third best Savoy overture (after Yeomen and Iolanthe). It is a marvelous piece of work, with Sullivan integrating the tunes into a coherent framework. It isn't just a potpourri.

TOM SHEPARD: I fully agree. The Overture is wonderful. Actually, on a number-by-number basis, there is a tremendous amount of worth music in The Grand Duke, and there is no question in my mind that Sullivan really gave this piece his best shot.

BILL SNYDER: Although all the shows have their tricky spots, The Grand Duke seems to have more than its share, specifically every time the chorus sings. But the Choral parts are pretty rewarding to sing and very nicely set. I particularly like "My goodness me" with its fugato entrances as the chorus hurls insults at Ludwig. Finally the only thing they can agree on is their fear of being hanged. Now I know you're thinking that in the Finale I they express their fear of being "hung". Many of our chorus could not sing that with straight faces; some had grammatical reasons, some had filthy minds. But "My goodness me" asks the question, if they couldn't eat three sausage rolls with relish, why not try mustard? Another favourite spot is "Your Highness, there's a party at the door" with the wonderful unison setting of pretty funny words: "She's as sulky as a super/ And she's swearing like a trooper,/O, you never heard such language in your life! YOU never heard such language in your life!" It also has my favourite setting of vocables.

Which brings me to a question: What opinions does anyone have on what "Krakenfeldt, Six" means? Wolfson says it's a laundry mark.

ROBERT JONES: "Krakenfeldt, Six." I've always assumed that her handkerchieves are embroidered with her name, and that she is the sixth Baroness. Thus, she's showing one to Ludwig as proof of identity.

TODD B. SOLLIS: I think I recall reading one opening night review of our beloved "Duke" in which the reviewer wrote something like "The rich vein, which Messrs Gilbert and Sullivan have so profitably mined for so many years, now seems dangerously near to exhaustion." You can read Wolfson's The Final Curtain and draw your own conclusions as to why this was so. The Grand Duke is certainly no Mikado. And yet, having performed The Grand Duke with my organization, The Blue Hill Troupe, I have a particularly soft spot in my heart for some of Sullivan's fresh contributions to this very uneven work, which I find vastly superior to Gilbert's tired book.

It seems to me that if not at the very top of his game, Sullivan still produced music evidencing much talent, such as "Take My Advice - When Deep In Debt" (a delightful tune with a French Riviera feel) and the grand pageantry-infused opening of the Second Act - "As Before You We Defile, Eloia, Eloia". "The Prince of Monte Carlo" can be a mirthful show-stopper, if done with sufficient abandon.

But I confess to being absolutely haunted by the beauty of approximately one half of Julia's Second Act aria, "All is Darksome - All Is Weary." So much so, that two years ago when we performed an Introduction to Gilbert & Sullivan Concert as part of The New York City Metropolitan Museum's Childrens' Concert Series, I asked one of our truly talented members, Beth Roberts (a Metropolitan Opera Regional Winner), to sing the aria, which we decided to conclude right after the phrase "Sad and sorry - weak and weary", which appears just about exactly one-half way through the piece. Admittedly, this truly changes the character of the song, which then turns chromatically into a much more upbeat, kick-the-blues sort of number. Offense to purists aside, with such editing, Beth's extraordinary vocal talent and Sullivan's sad, Leharesque tune, the audience literally was brought to its feet.

SANDY ROVNER: The veteran G&S director, John Burrows, who was the musical director for the Washington Savoyards (extraordinarily wonderful) production of The Grand Duke last year, condensed plot and score making them both much more comprehensible and emphasizing charm and melody - probably available - anyone interested, email me and I'll check on availability.

BRUCE WALTON: To a large extent, The Grand Duke is rescued by Sullivan's score. I think the best item is "Light of Love's lingering Embers", my favourite Tenor/Sop duet of them all with the possible exception of "Refrain, audacious tar". Sullivan also sets excellent lyrics very successfully in "Your Highness, there's a party at the door" and "When you find you're a broken-down critter".

Unlike other contributors, I don't like 'Take care of him." I can't give a coherent reason, it just grates on me. This song narrowly beats "At the outset" and the dreadful "So you're a pretty kind of fellow" for my vote for weakest item in the opera.

Page created 22 March 1998