Biff Florescu wrote: Regarding comments about Valerie Masterson as "not bad", she is one of the few D'Oyly Carte voices to pass muster in the larger operatic world. Her performances of Cleopatra, along with Janet Baker in Handel's Julius Caesar at English National Opera are among my most cherished musical memories. Michael Walters asked: What about Winifred Lawson and Muriel Dickson?
David Duffey observed: Valerie Masterson used to throw off "Poor Wand'ring One" with ease and aplomb and acted excellently. I think Elsie Griffin's bell-like, absolutely middle of the note, performance on the 1929 recording sounds a better performance than VM's 1968, in which she is not at her best. Purely because of the excellence of her voice, VM sounds slightly out of place in the DOC. The is not as marked, of course, as the big operatic voices which spoil Bernsteins's final "West Side Story", or on a more ludicrous level, Lloyd-Webber's Requiem. Michael Walters wrote: Elsie Griffin's recording of "Poor wandering one" was voted the best British record of the year. And incidentally, I always thought it ironic that VM was re-imported by DOC every time they revived Princess Ida, since of all the roles she sang with the company, I always felt that Ida was her least satisfactory role. My idol as Ida was always Jean Hindmarsh. Sadly, she never recorded the role. David Duffey observed: I fully concur. If memory serves Jean Hindmarsh did return just for Ida at least once during the Masterson era. Arthur Robinson asked: something I wondered about in my pre-Savoynet days: when I saw the movie The Hand That Rocks The Cradle on TV I was intrigued to hear G&S records played in the background. I suspected that the voice singing "Poor Wandering One" was Valerie Masterson's. Can anyone confirm this?
Biff Florescu wrote: I was never a Donald Adams fan, until his late career, when I thought he had really learned to sing well His Pirate King, while certainly well characterized, had a bothersome bleat to the tone, which I found annoying On the other hand, his Mikado with Mackerras sounds superb, really like another voice to my mind. David Duffey replied: One of the problems I have with proper critical judgement is an inability to disassociate mind's eye from present ear. I therefore see Adam's performance as Pirate King as I listen to it. Adams' final Mikado, with Mackerras, is better singing, but the laugh if I may so describe it sounds completely out of place.
Bruce Miller wrote: Mr. Clifton was an original member of the Comedy Opera Company, through which D'Oyly Carte launched Sorcerer and Pinafore. In Pinafore he played Bill Bobstay, the Boatswain's Mate and in Sorcerer - the Notary! Of the latter role there is little doubt that it requires a true bass to sing it; as to the Boatswain's Mate, that's a bit harder to determine. It appears that the Pinafore low bass assignment fluctuated in the first decade of its existence, but this would be explained if those low notes were written to be sung by Clifton who seems to have left the company before Pirates premiered in London. Clifton appears to have been groomed as a permanent character by G & S, much like a male equivalent of Jessie Bond. He was given moments to shine in Sorcerer, Pinafore and Pirates; then, suddenly, he's gone. What happened? Has this been written up anywhere? Did he die, leave for greener pastures, just decide to stay in America, or was he given the sack?
Barrington admitted that there was no part anticipated for him in Pirates. This seems confirmed by the fact that the Sgt.'s music, which occurs only in the second act, must have been conceived especially for Clifton and composed before Sullivan left London for New York (only minor revisions were made to this Act in the New York preparation period, and Clifton was at any rate there and in rehearsal when any revisions were made).I don't recall Barrington making any mention that he took over the part from Clifton; as I recall his version of it, G & S relented on the subject of letting him go, and wrote the smallish part just for him. For Clifton, however, the Sergeant's part was his largest and most rewarding to date. Was Barrington the lucky benefactor of a sudden need by G & S to have fill the Sgt's role in this case, by a good actor (if at the time indifferent singer) who was already at hand? If this was the case, it was certainly an act of cheek by Barrington to suggest Gilbert write him an encore verse in "When a felon's not engaged in his employment", as well as to avoid mentioning the fact that it was a role not designed specifically for his talents, but for another's. Michael Walters interjected: But actors are like that, aren't they? Think of Lytton v. Thorne!!
Bruce Miller continued: It would seem as well that Barrington's experience with this role is similar to Jessie Bond's with the Sorcerer revival, in which she assumed the role of Constance (sung originally by Giula Warwick). It is significant that Sullivan had to transpose downward some of Constance's music, but did not find it necessary to transpose any of the Sgt's music up for Barrington (although for those passages he left in the original keys we must assume that Jessie and Barrington had to do some finessing).
Michael Walters replied: I have been unable to find out anything about Frederic Clifton after he left the DOC, or the reasons for his departure. He was born on 29 May 1844, made his first stage appearance in 1861 at the Theatre Royal, Reading. After a "varied experience in almost every line of theatrical business" he took up a post in 1865 as musical lecturer and entertainer at the Royal Polytechnical Institution. In 1868 he appeared in the first London production of Offenbach's "Last of the Paladins" (no, I don't know anything about this show). He then created a number of roles at the Criterion, the Egyptian Hall, the Royalty, the Alhambra, the Gaiety and the Crystal Palace. It would seem, therefore, that he never stayed long in one place, so probably would not have remained long anyway. He may have gone into teaching music. He is said to have written a book "A Theory of Harmony" (?date) published by Boosey & Co., but I have not seen it. There is no copy in the British Library. Perhaps if anyone is interested, they may care to look in the Library of Congress or the PML? He is also said to have written incidental music for several stage works. The only musical item listed in the B.L. catalogue is a humorous song "The Willow White".
Bruce Miller responded: According to Reginald Allen in "Gilbert and Sullivan in America: The Story of the First D'Oyly Carte American Tour" (Pierpont Morgan Library, 1979), "Fred" Clifton stayed with the First Company of Pirates (i.e., that which gave the NY premiere, and left NY in March 1880 to tour the Northeast) beyond the time when other London principals such as Jessie Bond and Alice Barnett returned to London and the Opera Comique Pirates company. Allen carefully lists the replacements and substitutions within the four touring companies, and Clifton evidently played the Sgt of Police in the First Company throughout its existence. After a return engagement in NY between May 17 and June 5, the First Company spent another week in the Northeast and culminated with a week in Chicago, Ill. there the company closed after the June 19 performance, and there evidently, is where the Clifton trail ends.
Page created 28 April 1998