Gilbert and Sullivan Archive



BIFF FLORESCU: Regarding the matter of the patter trio, I don't think it's a matter of breath, but the awkwardness of the writing. In any case, I think Margaret has the hardest patter of the three, and to some extent, I think (this is my voice teacher side coming out now) it's because of the jump between chest and head voice. I just did the Nightmare Song on my faculty recital last night, and I think the patter in that is actually less awkwardly written than the Matter trio.

AARON HUNT: This "all or nothing" mentality is only sublimely effective if all three soloists can do it, and all the words are clearly heard and properly "shaded", dripping with meaning and fun. Since this is, again my opinion, nearly impossible for MM, and certainly difficult for the bassy-baritony-pick-yer-fach sort of baritone often delivering Despard, wouldn't the audience be happier to have a few breaths and be let in on the fun, rather than revel in the gymnastics of it all? I mean, if it's sport we want . . . .

DAVID DUFFEY: William Cox-Ife (DCOC Assistant Musical Director throughout the '50s), in his book How to Sing both Gilbert and Sullivan (and once again, if the rotter who still has my copy, together with its sister volume, is listening; I WANT IT BACK) advocates each verse being sung in the one breath. The recorded evidence is there for all to hear; however -

As one who has in fact played all three parts, I know that what is possible in the practice room and in rehearsal becomes much more difficult in performance, especially as the song comes towards the end of the show.

At school I played Mad Margaret and we were deeply influenced by the DOC Martyn Green recording which came out while we were in rehearsal. Whereas Green tossed off his verse in one breath with aplomb, even giving a Fisher-Dieskau-like emphasis to the words, Richard Watson and Drummie had all sorts of problems at the same tempo. In the innocence of youth, we resolved to be like Green. We got as far as all in one breath in rehearsal, but none of us managed it in performance. I had the same trouble in later years when I came to play Robin and then Sir D.

I did not see Martyn Green as Robin. I am sure that Peter Pratt used to go for it, although I never heard him manage - I say this because on each occasion that I saw him do Robin he cast his eyes heavenward then glanced at the conductor on taking a breath. I cannot recall any MM or SD managing either. John Reed never did, although had he given up smoking I am sure he could have. Having said that, they were professional singers and should have had the technique. The other notable all in one breath is "My brain it teams" from the trio in The Mikado - and I happen to have played all three of those parts too.

Page created 4 October 1997