Gilbert and Sullivan Archive

PRINCESS IDA DISCUSSION

Part 2 - Characters

2.1 - Ida
2.2 - Hilarion
2.3 - Cyril

2.1 - Ida

Janice Dallas: So far, I haven't heard much about Ida's nurture and environment affecting how she turned out. Of course, we do have to go to Tennyson to find out more about her early years, but given a father who likes to complain and three hulking brutes for older brothers, who would blame her for her concept of "Men" in general? Or, given the type of court her father kept, that she Princess Idais disaffected with the world? Lady Blanche took over the raising of Ida when Ida's mother died. She had a great effect on the young Ida. Then along comes Lady Psyche when Ida is in her teens. Like Ida, she is very intelligent, and knows well how to present the case against mankind (although she is still fond of her "playfellows", but they were only children then). One wonders at the arranged marriages that may have been the cause of Blanche's and Psyche's view of mankind. I wonder if the males in their families were as disagreeable as those of Ida's.

Rica Mendes: It isn't much of a wonder. What is a wonder is how she broke out of it - what was "the last straw"? How did she get to be so enlightened in the first place? I mean, Ida was not treated any differently from other royal women - she was property and a bargaining chip - in fact, her marriage to Hilarion was because Gama lost to Hildebrand and the union of the children secured Hilarion inheriting Gama's land. From her birth, she was merely a coupon redeemable upon Gama's death - no cash value. This was nothing new. But, who was it that gave her self-confidence? To teach her that she is a person, too? It is one thing to have known freedom and to have it taken away. But Ida, as far as we can tell, never got to see the "Promised Land". Therefore, if, from birth, she never knew such freedoms, how did she know what she was missing?

I think that there are a number of reasons why women would have left to Castle Adamant. In the case of Blanche, it was a place where she could have the power that she demanded. Plain and simple. Melissa, was literally born into it and other women with illegitimate children on the way may have sought refuge at Adamant. Some women, I am sure, were fleeing abusive marriages, relationships etc. Some left because they heard of a Utopia and, for financial and class reasons, could never imagine a world of freedom outside of Adamant. Some were probably very gifted, but stifled within their environments. Some may have been escaping with fear of the plague. Some families may have sent daughters there to be safe from war or illness. Some women may have simply been feisty and bored and wanted something new. And, as this was the Dark Ages, I wouldn't be surprised if some of these women were concubines who were escaping their masters or rape survivors who weren't going to find husbands as they had been defiled by the men who raped them. One could even point to Psyche as such a case - it is conceivable that perhaps one of her playmates (not one of the three fops, per se) got rather jealous of her mind, and, as they were hitting puberty and the idea of raping and pillaging was not an ridiculous one, he may have decided to lash out at her making her untouchable for marriage by anyone previously suitable. Look at her violent reactions towards the students regarding men. True, she does soften once she sees her brother and the other two, but her initial reactions speak rather loudly.

I'm not saying that this is the only way to see it, but there are a lot of psychological reasons why these women may have run to Adamant.

Janice Dallas: I think she was a strong minded child, and Lady Blanche, as is shown by Melissa's own strong mindedness, was probably the right guardian for her.

According to the poem, Psyche went to Gama's country in an arranged marriage. In the poem she is a widow with a beautiful three(?) year old child, that Ida dotes on. She is only a little older than Ida, I believe, and is treated like a best friend. However, I think you make a good case for why a woman or girl might choose to give up the world and live in seclusion.

J. Derrick McClure: Come off it, Rica. We're talking about Princess Ida - a light-hearted opera based on a fairly light-hearted poem: that post of yours, clearly meant as a tirade against all the wrongs women have ever suffered, is right out of place. I'm not going to bother taking you up on your own terms (note that for future reference) - there's no point in trying to make feminists recognise the patently obvious fact that if women have suffered abuses and injustices through the ages, men have suffered at least as much from abuses and injustices of different kinds, and sometimes of the same kinds too.

Also, Ida is not set in the Dark Ages - they run from the Sack of Rome in 410 to the crowning of Charlemagne as Emperor in 800.


Hilarion

2.2 - Hilarion

Mitchell Scott Gillett: As one who has played Hilarion twice, though you generally have the middle line in the ensembles, it requires a full blooded tenor for all solo work. The first time I sang it, the drama director decided to make a cut in the 2nd verse of "whom thou hast chained". He thought it would be better to cut from "Hopeless slavery", eliminating the chorus "have mercy", straight to the "If Kindly death". No prep for the Bflat and a wonderful jump from chest voice to head. It worked 82% of the performances ....


2.3 - Cyril

Aaron Hunt: One of my favorite roles in the canon is Cyril. Gilbert has written him very funny, and Sullivan has given him comedy as well as melody, by switching the voicing in the trios.

We've had some discussion of a baritonal Cyril, in the event of a dearth of tenors, in the interest of Ida going on, as it were. I suppose that this is indeed feasible, as several have seen it done. But I must add that this is a sad moment for a tenor of the Luiz-Tolloller-Notary(GD) "fach" (BACK, BACK I SAY), who would certainly enjoy another opportunity in the canon not to have to be the youngest, prettiest and high "b"-est boy in town.

And the different "mixes" of the voices in the trio, bringing, hopefully, a different timbre to each unique situation, is simply not to be missed unless, as I've said, there's no other way to hear about the world being a broken toy . . .

Michael Walters: It should be pointed out, of course, that the role was probably originally intended to be a baritone. In the pre-publication draft of the libretto, Lady Blanche says "One is a tenor, two are baritones". (Sorry if this has been said before, I haven't been reading all the postings)



Updated 12 May 1998