The Gilbert and Sullivan Newsletter Archive


No 7 — July 1977     Edited by Michael Walters

KINGSTON OPERATIC SOC. The Dubarry, Richmond Theatre, week ending May 21, 1977

This show was another "first" for me and I attended two performances, Monday and Saturday. Karl Millöcker (1842-1899) was one of Johann Strauss II's greatest rivals in his lifetime, but his music is almost unknown in England. His operettas included Das Verwünschene Schoss (1878), Gräfin Dubarry (1879), Apajune (l880), Die Jungfrau von Belleville and Der Bettelstudent (1882), Gasparone (1884), Der Feldprediger (1884), Der Viceadmiral (1886), Der arme Jonathan (1890) and Nordlicht (1896). The revised version of Gräfin Dubarry, called Die Dubarry, arranged by Theo Mackeben with a libretto by Paul Knepler, J.M.Willeminsky & Hans Martin Cremer was produced in Berlin in 1931 and in London in 1932 as "The Dubarry" in an English version by Rowland Leigh & Desmond Carter. This starred Anny Ahlers in the title role and Lawrence Anderson as King Louis XV. The new version contained a considerable amount of music not in the original operetta, and in fact is really a Millöcker pastiche, a fact which had escaped me till I consulted Gervase Hughes after attending the last performance, at which I spoke to Richard Wilson who commented that some of the music seemed different in character from the rest. The story is a prettified version of the early life of Madame Du Barry, the events leading up to her becoming the last mistress of Louis XV (the real story was rather more sordid). It is an unashamed "sob-story" with syrupy sentimental music to go with it - the sort of piece that audiences of the 30s lapped up, and it appealed to my own sentimentality. The piece was sumptuously dressed and staged. Inevitably, this piece stands or falls by the performance of the title role, an enormous role for an operetta. Barbara Kennedy gave a magnificent performance both vocally and histrionically - she managed to convey the development of character in the change from simple maid to Countess, and was equally convincing as both. The rest of the cast did not really measure up to her, and, apart from the tenor, who had a large but rather hard voice, were somewhat hard to hear. MICHAEL WALTERS

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