Gilbert and Sullivan Archive



Mike Storie: Andrew Crowther wrote: " I forgot to add that I think _Iolanthe_ has the most superbly joy-creating ending of any of the operas. I don't mean that bit of nonsense about putting "Don't" into Fairy Law - I mean all the mortals suddenly sprouting wings, and the wonderfully silly last line, "Then away we go to Fairyland!" I always feel unreasonably happy coming out of the theatre from _Iolanthe_, and for that I'm sincerely grateful."

I always thought that "Iolanthe" had the saddest ending of all the Savoy operas. They change the Fairy Law to read, "Every fairy must die who DOESN'T marry a mortal," and then the Queen turns all the mortals into fairies. Obviously, if they marry each other, they STILL haven't married a mortal, so the entire cast dies before the curtain call.

It makes Jack Point's final scene seem jolly by comparison. Neil Ellenoff: See! I knew it yeomen has a comparatively happy ending.

Michael Walters: No, the point is that they already HAVE married each other, so they HAVE married mortals. Its only after marriage that the mortals are turned into fairies. But of course this means the change in the law was unnecessary anyway. This was Gilbert's joke.

Tom Shepard: I don't think this is so: the fairies are fairies and the mortals are mortals until the Queen makes fairies of them all. (That's SO like a queen!)

Andrew Crowther: Mike Storie wrote: "... so the entire cast dies before the curtain call."

Oh, nay, nay! You might as well say the ending of _Ruddigore_ was the most tragic, since it sets up an unresolvable paradox which would weaken the space-time continuum and thereby precipitate the end of the universe!

(By refusing to commit a daily crime, the Baronet is attempting suicide, which is to fulfil the terms of the curse; but that means that he isn't in danger of dying, which means that he isn't really attempting suicide, which means that he _isn't_ fulfilling the terms of the curse; which means that he ought to die, which means that he's attempting suicide, which means....)

The last words heard before the end of the universe being, presumably, "Fallacy somewhere!"

Bill Snyder: Oh, I don't know. A few jelly babies tossed in the right direction might avert that, give or take a Dalek or two.

Lisa Berglund: Barri Soreil wrote: " G&S! Not only do all the fairies marry mortals (before they are changed into fairies) thus avoiding their newly enacted fate, BUT Strephon who will now live in fairyland with his beloved Phyllis has avoided the fate of "what to do about his upper half when his lower half has departed!" In fairyland, of course, even mortals are immortal! There is no happier ending the entire canon!

I've often wondered about this point. True, Phyllis sings that "Everyone is now a fairy," but the Queen does not invite her to become one; she asks, "And what say you, my lords; will you join our ranks?" Is there any evidence that either Strephon or Phyllis become fairies from head to toe? I've seen productions in which they do (usually courtesy of Iolanthe herself) but in most they've remained shepherdess and M.P.

Hmmm. Given that at the end of the opera "every fairy shall die who don't marry a mortal," and given that Strephon and Phyllis have not yet married, does the curtain fall on Strephon's upper half dropping dead?

Bruce I. Miller: Phyllis sings that "Everyone is now a fairy"

And we took her quite literally in our staging a few years ago. She also sprouted wings, and made sure the audience saw it. We also assumed that Strephon's half-fairyhood identity crisis was also fully resolved.

One way we emphasized Strephon's upper/lower problem was that we had him purposefully (in the case of our actor this wasn't a stretch) be extremely ungraceful as a dancer (when it came time for the Fairies to dance). Since he wasn't at any previous fairy dance rehearsals (he was only introduced to his aunts early in the first act -- and remember, since Iolanthe was banished to the bottom of the stream, the repetiturs seemed to lack the teaching skills his mother evidently possessed in abundance) he tried to pick up the steps as he saw them for the first time. It was obvious from his efforts that fairy dancing didn't come naturally, especially to his legs - although his upper half was somewhat more successful in his attempts.

Lisa Haferkamp: It occurred to me this morning that Strephon (Well, his upper half) would have to be executed for marrying the mortal Phyllis. And if he where to marry a fairy, she'd be condemned for marrying his lower half. Maybe only her legs have to die?

Updated 28 November 1997