|Iolanthe > Reviews > No.1 "Iolanthe" Company in Leeds
Last night Mr. D'Oyly Carte's Opera Company presented Messrs. Gilbert and Sullivan's new fairy opera "Iolanthe" for the first time to the people of Leeds in the Grand Theatre; and the large number of persons who witnessed the performance bore ample testimony to the general interest excited by the event. "Iolanthe," which is the latest achievement of the two gentlemen whose co-operation has done so much to alter the character of comic opera in England, is a work of conspicuous merit. Even those who have grown somewhat weary of the sameness to be found in all productions of this class will admit that in the new opera there are nearly all the qualities which are needed to secure a legitimate stage success.
The plot, of course, is absurd, for that "goes without saying" in a work written by Mr. Gilbert and set to music by Mr. Sullivan. But the action is rapid and vigorous, the dialogues are bright and witty, full of sparkling comments upon current events and of sharp satires upon the social institutions dearest to the British Philistine; the dresses and scenery are costly and beautiful, and, above all, the music has all the striking qualities which distinguish Mr. Sullivan's compositions. It is full of melody and sweetness, intermingled at times with a little of that Offenbachian smartness which our great English composer thinks it his duty to affect when writing for the stage.
We have said that the plot is absurd, and there is no need to occupy space in giving any account of it. Suffice it to say that it deals with a gentleman, Strephon (Mr. F. Federici), who has the inestimable advantage of being the son of a fairy by a mortal father, and who is consequently able at pleasure to summon his mother Iolanthe (Miss Beatrix Young) and the whole force of the fairies to his assistance. This gentleman is the lover of Phyllis (Miss Laura Clement), who has the misfortune to be not only a ward in Chancery, but a damsel so charming that more than a score of Peers are sighing in vain at her feet, the leader of this band of amorous nobles being the Lord Chancellor himself. There is no need to say what good use is made by Mr. Gilbert of such materials as we have here. The contrast between the fairies and the magnificent members of the House of Lords, who appear upon the scene, clad in the gorgeous robes of their order; and the tribulations of a Lord Chancellor who is small and wizened, and who finds it to be his hard lot to dispense on all sides the beautiful wards, with whom he is much inclined to fall in love on his own account, are made the most of by a writer who revels in impossible materials of this description, and innocent laughter is excited by the piece from the rising of the curtain to its fall. The speeches of two of the noble band of lovers, Lord Mountararat (Mr. Walter Grayling) and Lord Tolloller (Mr. L. Cadwaladr) furnish an admirable specimen of Mr. Gilbert's style at his best. The solemnity with which they confess their respect for "brains," and deplore their own lack of that commodity; the overwhelming courtesy with which each insists upon, killing the other — a duel being apparently inevitable — in order that his friend may be spared the pangs of remorse, and the pathos of their declaration that "hearts as pure and fair may beat in Belgrave-square, as in the lowly air of Seven Dials," are all inimitable.
The Lord Chancellor (Mr. Frank Thornton) occupies in Iolanthe the position assigned to the First Lord of the Admiralty in Pinafore, and to Bunthorne in Patience. His duty is to burlesque, in the neatest and brightest fashion, the character he is supposed to represent. In doing this he has to deliver himself, in that curious recitative of which Mr. Grossmith is the acknowledged master, and in which he has no unworthy follower in Mr. Thornton, of a number of drily humorous comments upon his functions and attributes.
The part played by the ladies in the piece need not be told. Their chief business is to look picturesque and to sing a number of very charming ballads and songs. In performing this duty, Phyllis, the Queen of the Fairies (Miss Fanny Harrison), and Iolanthe were conspicuous. A word, too, must be said for Private Willis (Mr. George Marler), who, in a voice of funereal depth and solemnity, sings a remarkable song descriptive of his opinions and sentiments as "an intellectual chap."
The music, upon the whole, is quite as attractive as that to be found in any of the previous operas of Mr. Sullivan, and some of the airs are certain to become as widely popular as any in Patience or Pinafore.
The whole performance was received with something like enthusiasm last night, whilst general admiration was excited by the singularly beautiful and effective scenery, especially in the second act.
The Era (London, England), Saturday, April 28, 1883; Issue 2327.
THE GRAND THEATRE. — Lessee, Mr. Wilson Barrett; Acting-Manager Mr. Lee Anderson. — Good audiences have been the rule here during the past week, attracted by the production of Messrs. Gilbert and Sullivan's latest success, Iolanthe. The two scenes, the Arcadian Landscape, by Louis Edouard, and the Palace Yard, Westminster, by Stafford Hall, were most artistic and effective, and elicited the heartiest applause from the audience, while the costly and beautiful dresses and the general appliances were no less warmly commended.
We have seldom heard any of Messrs. Gilbert and Sullivan's operas go better, the quick action and pointed and witty dialogue being keenly relished, while the melodious and sweet music received ample justice at the hands of the company, who, besides possessing vocal abilities of a high older, entered with great spirit into the comical situations.
Mr. Frank Thornton was drily humorous as, and made a, capital Lord Chancellor; and Mr. F. Federici, vocally and otherwise was excellent as Strephon. Mr. Walter Grayling and Mr. L. Cadwaladr were capital as Lords Mountararat and Tolloller. Mr. George Marler, well known in Leeds, was the Private Willis and sang his music effectively. Miss Laura Clement has a voice exactly suited to the music of the part of Phyllis and Miss Beatrix Young as Iolanthe acted with discretion and sang the music intrusted to her with care and finish, an example successfully followed by Miss Fanny Harrison as the Queen of the Fairies. Misses Kate Forster, M. Duggan, and Evelyn Carstairs, all trained vocalists, in the parts of Lela, Celia, and Fleta, completed the cast.
The chorus was both numerous and efficient, and the large and effective band of the theatre, most admirably conducted by Mr. Ralph Horner, got through their important share of the opera with flying colours, and were much applauded for their performance of the overture.
Page modified 30 November, 2011 Copyright © 2011 The Gilbert and Sullivan Archive All Rights Reserved.