Gilbert and Sullivan Archive


Productions and Recordings (concluded)

6.3 - . . .The Infamous. . .
6.4 - The Elusive Ida
6.5 - Princess Ida Video

6.3 - . . .The Infamous. . .

Sam L. Clapp: I really wish that someone out there who may have had the misfortune to see it would relate the story of that infamous and legendary Ken Russell (?) production of Ida in London a few years back . . . I have only heard stories, but there's something about Gama riding in on a fishburger . . . too racy even, I say to the shock of some of you, for me!

Bob & Jackie Richards: We were there. It is quite true to say that you cannot satire a satire. Ken Russell proved this perfectly. However, it was a joy to hear Anne Collins as Lady Blanche - and if we remember correctly, Gama entered in a Sushi burger from above! Most of the music remained mercifully intact and with your eyes closed you could almost believe it was a brilliant production.

6.4 - The Elusive Ida

Tom Shepard: Discussing Princess Ida brings me back to a very sentimental or sensitive time when I was in my teens. I had read the libretto of Ida, and I tried to imagine what it sounded like. Somehow I thought "Search throughout the panorama" would sound like "Hark the hour of ten is sounding" but I had no piano vocal score, except for the Albert Sirmay arrangement of "Would you know" - this was in the early 1950s, and there was no recording available.

Then The Record Hunter advertised a pristine set of HMVs of Ida for $35.00. I didn't have $35.00 and my folks felt that it was an outrageous amount to spend for an album of records. But my friend, Dan Aron, (a fellow Savoynetter) had wisely saved his money, and he bought the set. It might as well have been the holy grail - at last, Princess Ida was something tangible, tactile, available to listen to endlessly. Dan (or "Danny" as he was then known) very generously loaned me the set so I could copy it onto my Brush Soundmirror 7 1/2 ips full track tape recorded (vintage 1949). So I did, and I then typed out the entire libretto to fold into the tape boxes.

It was a labor (labour?) of love, and I existed with these three reels of tape right through the purchase of the LPs (my excitement at this release was indescribable; then I heard Victoria Sladen . . . ah well . . .) and then some years later, Al Simon, who was Light Music Director at WQXR offered me all of their 78s collection, so of course I finally had the shellacs of Ida, along with a lot of other stuff that was not so easy to find. (I had once owned the shellac Yeomen, but there is distortion on several of the sides - a faulty microphone - so the set - much to my dismay - was returned to the dealer.)

But I "lapped up" Princess Ida because the music is so terrific, and because of its particular strangeness: iambic pentameter blank verse, 3 acts, and when Robert Gibson came to direct it for us at Oberlin, it was a revelation.

I'm sharing all this because I can still conjure up the suspension of disbelief when I listen to and enjoy most of the Savoy operas. And I think that this is important because although I am pretty facile at analyzing their strengths and weaknesses, my fundamental enjoyment of them has little or nothing to do with my analytical abilities.

And, like my first LP, first tape recorder, first pre-amp, first wide-range loudspeaker, and various other landmarks or benchmarks in my odyssey with recordings, the first touch and listen to Danny's shiny and pristine (and very expensive) 78s, has remained a special memory for me and my love affair with Gilbert and Sullivan.

Bill Snyder: I'm fairly attached to Ida in personal ways myself, but even if I weren't, I would find your tale much more profound and honest than all the Schenkerian analyses in the world.

Daniel Aron: Yes, Tom, it was the Holy Grail! Those 78's are in (almost) pristine condition in my library still, although I rarely take them out of their album sleeves (The Record Hunter didn't even provide an album - the discs were sold individually in paper sleeves - what great guys). I think this was the first time we actually heard Lytton, and the revelation of Richard Watson (who was on all the contemporary London recordings) as a young man playing Hildebrand was quite astounding. It was a time of great discovery and ingenuousness.

6.5 - Princess Ida Video

Cindy Barr: Our organisation is currently picking our G & S for 1998. I would like to present Princess Ida as a possibility yet many people have never seen this operetta. Does anyone have a video copy we could purchase or borrow of Princess Ida that I could show?

William H. Trotter, Jr.: Any Gilbert & Sullivan opera (except Utopia Ltd. and The Grand Duke) and Cox and Box can be ordered from Opera World (1-800-99-OPERA). This is the group of productions made for the BBC in the early 1980's. Around the first of this year, Opera World made exclusive arrangements for the release of these videos in North America. I had been wanting the video of Princess Ida (my favorite G&S opera) for years!

I ordered all of the G&S operas and received them several days later. They are all highly enjoyable and include introductory background commentary by Douglas Fairbanks, Jr.. The Princess Ida video features Frank Gorshin as King Gama. I highly encourage you to order a copy from Opera World (no, they don't pay me to say this) in support of what they have done to make all the G&S operas available on video.

P. D. Parker: Whilst these Videos originated from Brent Walker Group, some of the versions used for broadcasting in UK included scenes which were never on the tapes as sold to the public. Can someone please confirm that the videos now on sale are the versions made for broadcasting (as indicated above) or are they identical to the publicly released versions? I am, of course aware that the Opera World versions are only available in North America and in NTSC format. Polygram in UK currently do have the versions made for public sale available in PAL format for UK, with the exception of Ruddigore which has been withdrawn. Ruddigore just happens to be one of the series which was the most mutilated, even leaving out 'I shipped d'ye see in a Revenue sloop'. Yeomen was also quite badly mutilated.

From inquiries I have made of Polygram UK, it seems they only have a distributors license and do not own the copyright in the original material, nor do they have the original master tapes. They appeared to be blissfully unaware that the versions they are selling are not the same as the versions used for broadcasting.

I am still trying to trace who has the original master tapes and the basic copyright holder. Everything seem to point to Goldcrest Films International to whom I have written and am awaiting a reply. If any further information comes to light I will post another message, but it would be useful if someone in USA can verify which versions are on sale there.

Page created 11 May 1998