Gilbert and Sullivan Archive


The Finales

8.1 - The Act 1 Finale

Marc Shepherd: In most of the G&S operas, the final movement of the Act I finale sets a human conflict in high relief. The final movement of Utopia's Act I finale is merely an ode to the joys of Joint Stock Companies. Satirically pointed, perhaps, but oh so boring. (Yes, I know Scaphio, Phantis and Tarara are muttering under all of this, but it's terribly ineffective compared to most of the other Act I finales.)

Paul McShane: I have always thought that the Utopia Act I finale has the much-desired qualities of a catchy tune and high dramatic content.

Marc Shepherd: This is debatable in some instances. It may well have those qualities, but I have always found the dramatic content extremely weak in this instance. A country incorporating itself may be satirically humorous, but I find it dramatically weak.

Bruce Miller: Now, we could go on about the vast melodic wasteland which is the Act I Finale of Utopia. Yes, there are a few small oases in this threadbare tapestry, but it's really sad when you realize the very best one is the reprise of the Captain's song from Pinafore...

Nick Sales: Of course, here I simply do not buy this. That I may have a blind spot where Utopia is concerned is debatable, but I LOVE the Act I finale.

[Note: were this some shallow, unthinking forum and not the highest example of internet acadaemia, I would be content to leave it at that, but I suppose some corroboration is required, so here goes;]

I love Princess Zara's march tune, and the spectacle of the Flowers' entrances I find dramatically to be very pleasing. I particularly love the "pilgrims/wanderers from a mighty state" passage, and Zara & Fitz's soaring "who love with all sincerity" painted over the choral hubbub of "henceforward, of a verity", and also the jolly, foursquare "act of sixty-two!" ending.

Tom Shepard: For what it's worth, so do I.

Nick Sales: Oddly, the Pinafore reprise provides me with my only criticism of Sullivan in the finale - and I'm not even sure it's a criticism. I fancy I can feel Sullivan labouring over the "Oh my gosh, how am I going to get round to including that tune?" from quite a way back, and occasionally it irritates me as I think I can feel it from the musical segue that precedes Zara's "and lastly I present" through the hornpipe (at this point I envisage ASS thinking "well, I've got this far, I might as well carry on") right up to the moment that the old tune breaks forth, giving Bruce his one ray of sunshine. At this point, I imagine ASS being much relieved and silently cursing Gilbert for having had to include the damn thing in the first place, and joyfully getting on with finishing the finale. This passage does seem to go down well with audiences, though, particularly those unfamiliar with it.

Paul McShane: Bruce and I hold different opinions in the opposite direction about the Utopia Act I finale - yet we both passionately will defend the brilliance of the operas to all comers.

The ability of G&S to overwhelm people at various ends of the musical and dramatic spectrum is an enduring monument to their genius.

8.2 - The Act 2 Finale

Andrew Crowther: Some people have said the Act 2 Finale needs fixing, is a low point, etc.

I don't see this at all. It summarises the point Gilbert has been making throughout: that Britain pretends to be superior to all other nations, but really isn't. "Let us hope for her sake/that she makes no mistake - /That she's all she professes to be!" This is why Gilbert was so insistent on Sullivan setting these verses, despite Sullivan's difficulties in doing so.

Arthur Robinson: I agree. In fact it's the point made, more clumsily, in the first (dialogue) lines of the play (see section 2).

Andrew Crowther: Utopia is the only G&S opera which doesn't end with a reprise: there must be a very strong reason for this.

Arthur Robinson: Good point. I'd noticed this (in fact I used it in a G&S quiz once) but I hadn't pondered on the significance.

Andrew Crowther: Oh, and I like Sullivan's setting, personally - the right note of pompous patriotism.

Robert Jones: Yes, it's excellent, but I agree with Sullivan that it's too pedestrian a tempo to finish the opera.

Bruce Miller: I had thought it was Gilbert who suggested this, not Sullivan, but it's possible I got it any event, Sullivan didn't seem to have the same concern with the close of Princess Ida.

Robert Jones: Good point. Quite likely, if I'd never heard about the Utopia finale disagreements, I'd be none the wiser and not think twice about it. The reference (according to my sieve-like memory) was in a letter from one to the other, the one understanding the other's concerns. But which was which, I can't remember.

Page created 18 January 1999