Gilbert and Sullivan Archive



Mary A. Finn: I once heard that originally, the two Phyllis/Strephon duets were interchanged with each other. That is, "If We're Weak Enough to Tarry" was done in the first act, and "Thou The " in the second. Dramatically, this makes a lot of sense to me, because "Weak Enough" foreshadows the action of the operetta.

Is this true? If so, why was the switch made, and why wasn't it ever switched back?

Michael Walters: Yes and no. The position is that originally there was only one duet, the one which is now in Act 2 was in the Act 1 position. It was later moved to Act 2, and the one now in Act 1 inserted. But I think this all took place before the opening night. However, I agree that they do actually make better sense reversed, and I can claim to have instrumental in having the performed this way in a production many years ago.

Tom Shepard: I don't agree. The plot is more advanced in Act 2 which energizes the duet, whereas in Act I, we learn of the love between them BEFORE we learn about their plans to defy the law.

Gwyn Aubrey: Well, isn't the whole point of "If We're Weak Enough to Tarry", from a dramatic standpoint, that Phyllis and Strephon have gone through all the trials, tribulations, etc. and they've decided to get married fast before anything else hits?

Marc Shepherd: I agree that if you just read the texts of the two duets, the Act II duet makes more sense in Act I, and the Act I duet makes more sense in Act II.

I suspect the reason G&S made the shift is that the current Act I duet would slow down the action in the Act II position. In Act I, it is placed where a slow number does not injure the pacing of the work.

I've often said that the worst mistake they made in RUDDIGORE is making a slow, 3-verse ballad the penultimate number in the opera: it halts the action at exactly the time when it should be speeded up.

I believe that similar considerations led G&S to put "None shall part us" in Act I and "If we're weak enough" in Act II.

Updated 28 November 1997