Gilbert and Sullivan Archive



LISA BERGLUND: I don't know if the following is "standard" - I've seen versions of it in the two GRAND DUKES I've attended. After Rudolph pairs off with the Princess, the Prince asks the Baroness out to dinner (he's been eyeing her approving ever since requesting the catalog of the museum). The Baroness at first demures, exhibiting some lingering affection for Rudolph, but the latter stage-whispers, "Caroline, he's offering to buy you a meal!" And of course she flings herself into the Prince's arms. Makes sense to me.

RONALD ORENSTEIN: In the Canadian premiere of The Grand Duke in the late sixties, the Prince (me) paired off with the Baroness. I believe this may have been what Gilbert intended, though I have no evidence for saying so.

KEN KRANTZ: This brings up the issue of rearranging the couples at the end. I first saw this idea mentioned years ago in Peter Kline's book Gilbert & Sullivan Production. He noted that Rudolph and the Baroness are well suited and contrives to arrange things so they remain an item. However, a change in the final pairing requires substantial changes to the dialogue.

Kline wrote new dialogue for the final scene. In his revision the Notary reveals that Ernest is actually the long lost heir to a neighboring grand duchy and, for legal reasons beyond the grasp of laymen, the marriage contract with the Princess actually applies to Ernest rather than Rudolph. Ernest marries the Princess, and he and Rudolph will rule jointly over a united grand duchy. The Prince will be the power behind the throne and Julia decides that being the wife of such a political wheeler-dealer is a sufficiently dramatic role so she agrees to marry the Prince.

I admire the ingenuity of all this but - Well let me put it this way: when I try to think of the things that might improve The Grand Duke's chances of success, "more dialogue and additional plot complexities, preferably right at the end" is not among the ideas that strongly suggest themselves. Also, large stretches of interpolated dialogue never seem to blend well with Gilbert's original.

The only staged Grand Duke I have ever seen (the Washington Savoyards production last spring) kept the final pairings as originally written. I agree that Rudolph and the Baroness deserve each other, but I think tampering with the ending to achieve that end is more trouble than it is worth. However, I am open to conviction.

MARC SHEPHERD: I've always felt that Kline was onto something, but his cure was worse than the disease. Kline is right - Rudolph and the Baroness seem genuinely to deserve each other. And, granted, Gilbert's dialogue in the final scene is awful. Unfortunately, the last thing the opera needs is a lot of complicated dialogue at the end, and that's exactly what Kline gives us. So, I prefer to just leave the ending as Gilbert gave it to us, warts and all. However, I've never seen Kline's ending performed, so this opinion is derived just from reading it.

Should everybody pair off at the end? I happen to believe that, in general, they should. At any rate, if you buy this theory, then the pairings you typically see are:

Gilbert doesn't give us the last of these, but as they're of similar ages, it makes sense.

I've probably seen five or six productions, but I've never heard the interpolated lines Lisa quotes above. However, I think they're hilarious and in perfect spirit with the story. They don't require anything like the total rewrite that Kline proposes, so I'm all for 'em.

ARTHUR ROBINSON: Actually, in the original libretto (as published in Reginald Allen's First Night Gilbert And Sullivan), the stage directions have the Prince of Monte Carlo flirting with the Baroness. This stage direction apparently was cut when the line accompanying it was cut.

I've always found Gilbert's cuts to The Grand Duke bizarre - maybe he was so exhausted by the ordeal of putting it on (as suggested by his calling it an "ugly misshapen little brat" in a letter shortly after the opening) that his usually acute judgment was impaired. It's always seemed to me that in the original (first night) version, much of the Act I dialogue is unnecessary and/or terrible, but the dialogue improves in Act II. Yet when Gilbert revised it after the opening, he left Act I practically untouched, cut three songs from Act II (the Prince's song is the best, but I enjoy the other two as well), and butchered the dialogue at the end. Not only did he cut some good lines (the exchange in which Julia makes Ernest promise to provide her with "strong scenes of justifiable jealousy" strikes me as one of the funniest in the show, and as I recall there was also an amusing exchange between Ludwig and the Notary - "lawyer jokes" in 1896), there's been discussion about whether the plot of The Grand Duke is confusing. Maybe these cuts have contributed to this feeling.

MICHAEL NASH: I've seen The Grand Duke twice so far, once by Manchester University G&S at the Rowntree Theatre, York, in 1991, and once by an American society (I quite forget their name) at the Buxton Festival in 1994. I thought it was a terrific show on both occasions.

As far as the final pairings are concerned, Manchester University's production had Rudolph pair off with the Baroness, without any change of the final dialogue. He says, "Well, you're an attractive little girl, you know, but you're as poor as a rat!" and spurns her, retiring upstage with the Baroness. The Princess of MonteCarlo then bursts into tears. Ludwig marries Lisa and Ernest marries Julia, leaving the Prince and Princess alone bereft, and thoroughly cheesed off, to say the least.

DAN KRAVETZ: This is an unfortunate result of using libretti with post-first-night cuts. In the complete original version, Rudolph does tell the Princess she is "as poor as a rat," but her father interrupts to begin telling Rudolph about his new fortune from roulette. When the dialog was trimmed, the Prince's roulette song had also been eliminated, so we are left with the false impression that Rudolph doesn't want his daughter.

PHILIP STERNENBERG: Actually, Gilbert does give us the last of these - but only in the First Night libretto. The stage directions state that the Prince "flirts with Baroness." This was cut with the bit where the Princess gives Rudolph a small Roulette wheel.

Where does it say, though, that the Prince isn't already married, with a wife (Grace Kelly?) waiting back in Monte Carlo? Considering the haste with which the Prince had to take his daughter to Pfennig Halbpfennig, and the extra cost that taking her mother along would entail, it's entirely reasonable.

TOM SHEPARD: But here is the Gilbertian rub: In virtually all of their prior works, there is a sense of justice in the way people pair off at the end. They may love each other, or they may, sometimes in a negative sense, deserve each other - like Merrill and Carruthers.

But Rudolph and Caroline were ostensibly in love whereas the Princess of M.C. and her father are just visiting upstarts. There is no legal or emotional satisfaction for us if we see Rudolph and the Princess pair off, leaving Caroline and the Prince dangling together. I feel that if Gilbert had had a chance to react to the problems, he would quite possibly have repaired the "happy couples" at the end.

J DONALD SMITH: But remember that there is a valid contract between Rudolph and the Princess, since she turns up before it expires.

Besides which, there is the "Age Problem" - remember that he was "betrothed in infancy to the Princess of Monte Carlo." I would assume that it refers to both of them. So a twenty-one year old Rudolph ("I am very young, but not as young as that . . .") is going to marry the elderly Baroness for her money, and is perfectly happy to dump her for the now immeasurably wealthy young Princess. In this case, at least, Gilbert is perfectly consistent in having Rudolph paired up with the Princess.

Page created 22 March 1998