Gilbert and Sullivan Archive



Sarah Mankowski David Duffey wrote: " Of all the operas, I think I would most like to have seen Iolanthe at The Savoy through the eyes of a Victorian."

Yes! To have been there opening night, sitting right behind Captain Shaw, perhaps. Does anybody know where I can rent a reliable time machine? Gerry Howe Yes: a chap called Herbert G. Wells has, I understand, some information about one recently invented. I presume (the name is not a common one) that he is related (a brother, perhaps?) to John W. Wells, the well-known Family Sorcerer. I suggest you write to Messrs. J. W. Wells & Son, 70 St Mary Axe, London EC3, who should be able to point you in the right direction.

Tom Shepard

We've a first rate assortment of magic
And for raising a posthumous show
With effects both electric and tragic,
There's no better place that I know.

Lord Chanc'llors, we've quantities of 'em
And for Phyllis, if that's what you crave.
We're keeping her parked in the dark at St. James's
For tuppence she'll quite misbehave!

(Not my best work, but it's still early in the day)

Sarah Mankowski P.S. When I find that reliable time machine, you're all invited to come along -- except for David Craven, who would find it rather dull.

Howard Dicus Can you imagine the plot if Gilbert & Sullivan had done a time machine opera? The male chorus is engaged to the female chorus, but unfortunately the women dallied in the time machine and came back to find the men a bit too old for their tastes. Worse, the time machine has been repossessed because the person who purchased it was in another time and forgot to keep up the payments. Solution, at the end, has something to do with the fact that the time machine was repossessed retroactively, through time travel, therefore it was never used, and therefore no expense was incurred, so there was no delinquence, and it has to be returned, allowing the men to travel long enough to line up their age with the women's again. Do you think I've had too much caffeine this morning?

Tom Shepard There was a wonderful novel by Philip Wylie called "The Disappearance"---published perhaps in the early 1950s. It deals with each sex suddenly disappearing from the other, yet both inhabit this planet at the same time. The men make a mess of their world; the women make peace. It made a powerful impression on me, and I imagine it's not easy to find, but it's the closest serious work I know to what you have suggested above.

David Duffey Although the time machine would be appreciated, we would be viewing the opera through nearly into the 21st century eyes. The impact of the colourful, brightly illuminated spectacle on people used to gas, oil or candle lighting, to whom colourful fabrics were expensive luxuries and for whom colour printing was at best one or two tone, must have been great.

When I see the screen-saver on this computer I often muse that it would be a source of extreme wonder to a Victorian; not the technology, just the sight of the swirling colours and patterns. What we can only imagine, even if having a time machine, is the impression the sight had.

Despite this, I read in Reginald Allen's description of the first night of Iolanthe that most people kept their eyes on their copy of the libretto. Again, you see, from our time machine we would have no surprises about words and music.

Updated 28 November 1997