Gilbert and Sullivan Archive



Kenton L Chambers: Iolanthe has the most tear-inducing song. Of course I refer to "My lord, a suppliant at your feet.." I simply can't listen to, or even read the words of, Iolanthe's song without choking up. When we did the play last summer, I sat backstage (in my soldier's uniform) listening, and crying, every night.

What other songs in the canon induce tears, dear Savoynetters? Oh, thoughtless crew; Ah, leave me not to pine; Love is a plaintive song; I built upon a rock; Alone, and yet alive; To a garden full of posies; There was a time? All contenders, perhaps, but none have quite the "extraordinary effect"--on me, at least--as Iolanthe's sentimental pleadings. Does anyone else have a favorite piece which they respond to in this way (whether mentioned above or not)?

Lisa Berglund: I agree that "My lord! a suppliant at thy feet I kneel" is the most heart-wrenching song in the canon; for beauty I'd say it's tied with "Ah! leave me not to pine." However, the only time I ever cried at a G&S performance (that I can remember) was at the superb rendition of "There grew a little flower" by Gillian Knight and John Ayldon at last year's Philly RUDDIGORE.

Lisa Berglund, off to a faculty meeting to shed tears of frustration, boredom and rage, depending on the agenda item before her.

Tom Groves: I agree that "Suppliant" is a tear-jerker. However, number one on the lachrymosal scale must be Elsie's second act solo- she warms up with "Leonard, my loved one" and, at least in the last few Yeomen I've been, the audiences weeping buckets by the time she gets to "It is thine, it is thine". The rendition given by our soprano, Kathyrn Radcliffe, was truly heartbreaking, though the effect was sometimes spoiled by occasional laughter when she sang "Leonard!!, and by the fact that many audience members are still somewhat confused by the plot!

My second vote would be"I hear the soft note" from Patience- gets me every time.

Mike Greenberg: The issue of which songs from the Savoy operas provoke tears with the greatest assuredness may have something more to do with the listener than with the words or music. If one ignores the songs that bring tears to the eyes by their badness (the task of filling up the blanks I'd rather leave to the reader), of the number of lyrics with an elegiac flavour, some appeal more to one temperament, some to another. It may make sense to ask which songs can be imagined as most melancholy, but many will cry for reasons of association rather than the merits of performers or opera.

Sunt lacrimae rerum.

Derrick McClure: Agreed! Iolanthe's song is the most moving number in the canon - more so even than anything in YEOMEN, or than anything else that I know of in Sullivan's whole output EXCEPT - can anybody come back on this one? - Laine's plea to Philip ("Nay, wert thou more than all he said thou art...") in THE BEAUTY STONE. The fact that IOLANTHE shows the full range of Sullivan's power of emotional expressiveness, from his most exuberant and joyous to his saddest and most pathetic vein, is one of the things that make it (in my judgment) the best of the lot.

Updated 28 November 1997