Gilbert and Sullivan Archive



Bill Snyder: Opera snobs are particularly dismissive of G&S, but the truth is that they would probably not recognize or like the staging techniques (or lack thereof) used pre-Gilbert. As far as I know, in that era, other than Gilbert, only Wagner did much in the way of reliable blocking.

Also, up until Gilbert opera choruses were generally not much more than singing wallpaper (with the exception of Russian opera, which was developing about the same time in a nation with a choral tradition as strong as Britain's). And IOLANTHE is good example of how effective a chorus can be when the characters in the chorus are really involved in the action.

I get the distinct feeling that the general perception among the operatic and dramatic intelligentsia is that since Gilbert did what he did so smoothly and naturally, and without the reams of theoretical yadda-yadda that Wagner, for example, incessantly cranked out, that Gilbert really didn't know what he was doing.

But I think he did.

Andrew Crowther: Hear, hear! I've been working on a thesis on Gilbert's plays for the past two years, and one of the things that comes out of it loud and clear is that he did know exactly what he was doing. He was a superb dramatic craftsman, and he turned this craft to serious intellectual ends. (I apologize for "intellectual", a horrible, self-important word; but it's the best I can think of.)

Question: when does craft become art? I sometimes think an artist is simply an expert craftsman. In writing, so many different skills need to be employed at the same time that they can only be used effectively by a writer who doesn't need to think about these skills consciously: the writer uses them by instinct. And that is art.

At other times I think art is something beyond this: that it is the part of literature which cannot be reached by literary criticism. Art is the kind of thing which can only be described with flabby words like "Inspiration". And as such, art cannot be discussed. (Which is rather worrying to someone who has spent the past two years trying to do precisely this.)

By both these vague standards, Gilbert was undoubtedly an artist. He was an expert craftsman, and there are times when he strikes on something "beyond", as in _Iolanthe_. But I think I am on the verge of becoming embarrassingly mystical, so I'd better stop.

(BTW, I've never met the word "yadda-yadda" before, and I doubt if I'd find it in my dictionary, but I know _exactly_ what you mean.)

Jeff DeMarco: Barri Soreil: wrote: Since Strephon's upper half was fairy

Something that has been nagging me since these half and half threads started is why Strephon appears to be 25 in his upper half when Iolanthe (Nee Perola ;-)) appears as 17. Do male fairies exist at an older level than the females?

Of course the real reason is that Gilbert apparently thought this was a good age difference for a man and woman, to make it appear as though S and I were in fact romantically involved (possibly even to the point of giving him one!)

Updated 28 November 1997