|Iolanthe > Reviews > No. 1 "Iolanthe" Company in Manchester
From the Manchester Times (Manchester, England), Saturday, March 3, 1883; Issue 1312.
The Theatre Royal was well filled on Monday night to welcome the first production in the provinces of the new opera which is now being performed at the Savoy Theatre in London. "Iolanthe; or, the Peer and the Peri," is the latest result of that happy combination of W. S. Gilbert and Arthur Sullivan which has so strikingly hit the taste of the English-speaking world during the last few years. "Pinafore," "Pirates," and "Patience," have all been prodigiously successful.
Mr. Gilbert supplies a framework of quaint and extravagant fancy mixed with amusing satire and genial cynicism, but probably his satire and his cynicism are less appreciated than his ingenious and unexpected rhymes, the exceeding neatness of some of his phrases, and his happy working up of commonplace expressions.
Mr. Sullivan brings his well-known powers to bear upon Mr. Gilbert's work, and his melodies are at once caught up and become public property. It may be said by severe critics that Mr. Sullivan's facility and certainty of success occasionally lead him into trivialities that are unworthy of the good work that he has previously done as a composer. Mr. Sullivan may point triumphantly to the fact that millions of people are familiar with the airs from these operas who have never so much as heard of the "Tempest" music. He might also boast that they make the best possible dance music and have been a godsend to the military bands of this country. Nor are we disposed to deny that they deserve their success, for some of the melodies are of great beauty, and all are easy of comprehension. The composer's individuality is never altogether absent, though he has partially effaced himself in favour of his coadjutor, whose words often seem to supply the inspiration.
And of "Iolanthe" we may say that it is very much what might have been expected from the authors of its predecessors. There are no new musical effects, there is no straining for a new departure, but we have an opera built on the lines that have pleased before, and which are therefore likely to please again. Instead of First Lord or a Major-General we find the Lord Chancellor in all his glory, supported by a chorus of Peers, who take the place of the gallant Dragoons in "Patience." Then, of course, there must be a chorus of ladies, and here, by an innovation, we find no mere morals, "sisters and cousins and aunts," but fairies, supernatural beings with wings, the traditional fairies of fairy tale. No less extraordinary beings would suffice to match an hereditary House of Lords. Then, of course, there must be Phyllis and Strephon, a pair of lovers to sing love songs; the former being a ward in Chancery, and the latter being the son of Iolanthe the fairy, by a mortal father.
The plot of the play is simple. Strephon and Phyllis are to be married, but the unfortunate shepherd is detected embracing his mother, who, being a fairy, looks, of course, not more than seventeen years old. On this the marriage is broken off by the Lord Chancellor, and Phyllis agrees to marry either Lord Mountararat or Lord Tolloller, "she doesn't care which." But the fairies come to the rescue of their friend Strephon, and send him to Parliament, where he is irresistible and passes his bills for the annoyance of the Peers. However, Iolanthe reveals that the Lord Chancellor is Strephon's father, so all ends happily, the fairies and the noble lords pairing off in the orthodox manner.
It is easy to see that there is scope for fun in all this extravagance. The extravagance is sometimes more prominent than the fun, but those who were in a humour to laugh had several chances of doing so. The appearance of the peers in their gorgeous robes and coronets was in itself exceedingly grotesque, and they were not more out of place in the Arcadian landscape in the first act than were the fairies in Palace Yard, Westminster, in the second act. The performance went on Monday night with tolerable smoothness, though the band was by no means all that could be desired.
It is, perhaps, rash to express a definite opinion on a first hearing; but we are not inclined to believe that the music of "Iolanthe" will make as much impression as that of "Patience." There seems but little freshness, and one perhaps should not be surprised that a certain repetition of the old situations, should have caused some falling away of inspiration. Nevertheless, "Iolanthe" is well worth seeing, and even if it is not Gilbert and Sullivan's best work, we recommend our readers to go and form their own opinion on this point.
The Era (London, England), Saturday, March 3, 1883; Issue 2319.
THEATRE ROYAL. — Lessee, Captain R. Bainbridge. — The production of Messrs. Gilbert and Sullivan's latest operatic success, Iolanthe, has naturally attracted very large audiences to this house during the past week. The work has had an enthusiastic reception.
Mr. Frank Thornton is an excellent exponent of the part of the Lord Chancellor, singing his lines in a rapid and yet perfectly articulate manner, and, we venture to think, giving as satisfactory a rendering of the rôle as could be desired. Mr. F. Federici both sings and acts excellently in the part of Strephon, whilst Mr. G. W. Marler as Private Willis, Mr. Walter Greyling as the Earl of Mountararat, and Mr. L. Cadwaladr as the Earl of Tolloller are all fairly satisfactory in their respective characters.
The piece is excellently put upon the stage, both the Arcadian Landscape of the first act, and the Westminster Palace-yard of the second, being magnificent specimens of stage-mounting. The costumes are very chaste and pretty, and altogether the production is exceedingly satisfactory.
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