David Craven wrote: Although in real life I am a light lyric "Rossini/Donizetti" Baritone, in the world of G&S I am considered to be a Bass. Sir Marmalade, Ad-man, Grand Exquist-her, Field Marshall Willis, Rusher the Usher, Arac the Welder and so on (all of which I have played at least once)... yet the one role that has made me feel vocally inadequate is the Sergeant of Police. To me it is the truest "bass" role in all of the Gilbert and Sullivan literature. It requires the most consistent power in the lower part of the register and tends to require the most "bassy" sound. Other roles can be pulled off with a non-bassy weighting. Do others have this same experience?
David Duffey replied: I agree about Sergeant, which makes Leo Sheffield on the 1929 recording sound so inappropriate. [See section 3.5.1 above] A lot of what I think about a true bass timbre has, I suspect, to do with expectation based on great performances seen and heard. Bob Becket, the Boatswain's Mate MUST have a true and easy bass. Like Captain Fitz, it is not funny when the B's Mate seems to force the notes. The Notary in Sorcerer & Old Adam are similar cases. I like to hear Private Willis as a true bass, but this happens so rarely that I even enjoy Owen Brannigan (Puffing Billy) singing it. Also The Usher and, slightly off topic, Bouncer MUST be a true bass.
Andrew Crowther asked: So why was Ruth so hard of hearing at the crucial time when Frederic was a little boy? She'd only have been about 30 years old at the time. And Rebecca Consentino observed: Good question! After all, it's never again mentioned over the course of the show.
Bill McCann suggested: No doubt Ruth had to do all the deep sea diving looking for pearls - all that water in her ears perhaps? To which Rebecca Consentino replied: Only if she were freelancing as a piratical maid before she "accidentally" bound her young charge apprentice to a pirate. And Bill McCann: Well, it is a possibility. But her hard of hearing may only be the result of dealing with Pirates in the first place. Perhaps the word "Pilot" was totally foreign to her until she found, and looked up, a washed-up dictionary and discovered the word pilot??? Neil Ellenoff replied: The Japanese have trouble with Ls and Rs. Do you think she was a fugitive from another (unborn) opera? Helga Perry replied: Maybe she and Katisha were switched at birth or maybe Pooh Bah was Lord High Employer .
Helga Perry suggested: Ruth's hearing problem may be congenital (i.e. she could have been born with impaired hearing in either or both ears). Could also have been the result of measles or rubella in early childhood. It is also possible that her employer had a speech impediment. Though without access to their medical records I doubt we could pursue these hypotheses further. Bill McCann replied: Too true. The idea of the employer's speech impediment is worth pursuing, even if it implies that he was her whole source of education. Was he? Seems just as speculative as the rest, I suppose. Richard N. Freedman commented: I don't think it's fair to question her master's clarity of speech. Ruth apparently was aware she was hard of hearing. Neil Ellenoff wrote: It's quite possible that the fault wasn't Ruth's at all but that her master didn't speak distinctly. Contrariwise, Ruth may not have cleaned her ears assiduously enough. Sara Frommer commented: Maybe she was deaf very young, period. It happens.
Harriet Meyer asked: I'd like to know, what people think would have happened if Ruth had had the face to return to her place and break it to her master--what would Master have done? Richard N. Freedman replied: That might depend on whether it was revealed that she had bound Frederic to a band of Peers gone wrong. When (and how) did she acquire this knowledge? Gwyn Aubrey suggested: Her Master probably would have given her a really good clip on the ear, making her deaf as a post (and, from our standpoint slightly more serious, tone deaf as well!)
Page created 29 April 1998