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D'OYLY CARTE OPERA COMPANY

"Iolanthe"

Review from The Manchester Guardian, 4th April 1932 by Sir Neville Cardus.


Saturday night's performance of "Iolanthe," enjoyed by a huge audience, was fresh and enthusiastic; it might have been the opera's first performance. The D'Oyly Carte Company certainly have the knack of freshness, of coming to their routined task with gusto. We could easily imagine better singing — especially amongst the ladies' voices in the chorus; we could easily imagine, too, a lighter and more flavoured style of burlesque. But keener teamwork than the D'Oyly Carte Company's is not possible, surely, in any touring organisation dealing with works which, though masterpieces in their way, are bound now and again to seem a little wearisome to those engaged in them every evening of their lives. Mr. Martyn Green is making many friends in the most famous of the Savoy parts; his Lord Chancellor is already a careful study, not ripe yet, but ripening. He sings the great patter song dexterously — and it is wonderful comic music. We had, of course, to imagine the distraught feverish humour of Sullivan's orchestration during Saturday's playing of the song: the distraught note was there, but not exactly as Sullivan intended.

The company tend to play these operas too heavily; they often play them "straight" instead of with a savour of caricature, rolled over on the palate of the artists themselves. Miss Dorothy Gill's Queen of the Fairies has excellent vocal and dramatic points, but she seems likely any moment to modulate into Volumnia out of "Coriolanus." Mr. Darrell Fancourt and Mr. Leslie Rands know something of the old Savoy secret; they both, at least, avoid solemnity. Miss Marjorie Eyre looked and sounded like Iolanthe; and Miss Winifred Lawson sang competently as Phyllis. The stylised dresses of Phyllis and Strephon, beautifully designed by George Sherringham, are quite out of place in the flat conventional setting of act I — "an Arcadian landscape" which reminds us of the opening scene of an ancient pantomime: — we expected the arrival immediately the curtain went up of Dame Trot and some conversation from her about matrimony and "my first." Mr. Sydney Granville made the most of the Sentinel's song; and Mr. John Dean's Tolloller was pleasant.

Again did Mr. Isidore Godfrey labour hard to create the illusion of an orchestra. It is a pity, though, that he cannot work his magic, perform his Svengali-like signs and allurements hidden from the public view. He rather gets in the line of vision from the stalls, and, moreover, does some damage to the notion — necessary for the enjoyment of the operas — that the characters are moving by their own volition. Yet we would not detract from Mr. Godfrey's achievements. He has actually reduced a Gilbert and Sullivan audience to comparative silence during an overture. On Saturday, of all nights in the week, there was little chatter or chocolates for the overture to "Iolanthe." Mr. Godfrey fixed the audience with his baton, and then the music began, with the packed theatre most still and reverent. We only needed the lights out and it would have been like "Parsifal."

N.C.



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