Gilbert and Sullivan Archive



LARRY T. GARVIN: The Yeomen Of The Guard poses more questions than most shows about what to put in. More precisely, a fair amount of music was cut, whether somewhat before the first night or just after, and some music has from time to time been trimmed by D'Oyly Carte. So perhaps it's time to consider what decisions to make.

The spots are:

1. "A laughing boy but yesterday" (Sgt. Meryll's first-act song; cut after opening night)

2. "When jealous torments wrack my soul" (Shadbolt's first-act song (just before first exit); cut somewhat before opening night)

3. "Is life a boon?" (Which version? Sullivan's earlier surviving version in six-eight, or the standard one in two?)

4. "Didst thou not, oh Leonard Meryll" (The standard version is half the length of the original, which was cut shortly before opening night at Gilbert's insistence.)

5. "Rapture, rapture" (Not cut by Gilbert, but at one time a standard D'Oyly Carte cut.)

6. Chords between "Rapture, rapture" and the intro to "Comes the pretty young bride" (Some recordings have them, others don't.)

The most recent D'Oyly Carte recording contains all of these.

"A Laughing Boy But Yesterday"

MIDI File and Lyrics

LARRY T. GARVIN: Cut "A laughing boy." Gilbert was right; the show does start slowly, and this song doesn't help. It's also not easy to sing well.

TOM SHEPARD: I'd leave it in if you have a good singer.

BRUCE I. MILLER: I believe Gilbert's concerns were justified in 1888, but not in 1997. People now, by and large, know that Yeomen is not the typical G&S satire and are more tolerant of the serious opening. The very substantial caveat is that it must be well sung, and it's a difficult vocal challenge. A mediocre singer would butcher it. My recent experience with this song was that the orchestra loved playing it and, taken at a brisk tempo, it was well received by the audiences.

TOM SHEPARD: It's a cute song, but do any of you share with me the difficulty? With a little time and effort I can almost make out what Meryll thinks he is saying!

MICHAEL WALTERS: The problem I've always had with Meryll's song is that it gives me the impression that Sullivan only set the first verse and presumed that the second verse would fit the same notes. I think it was Gervase Hughes who mentioned that Sullivan sometimes did this, and listening to this song I can understand what he meant. The music fits the words of the first verse excellently, but in the second creates some unnatural stresses - eg. "When at my Leonard's deeds ..."

BRUCE I. MILLER: Sullivan very carefully altered the rhythms of Laughing Boy's second verse, if the Greinnert copy score in the New York Public Library is to be believed (and there is not reason not to). These variants did not get transferred into the Sing With Sullivan transcription, unfortunately.

MICHAEL WALTERS: I confess I was basing my view of Donald Adams' recording. I have not seen the Sing With Sullivan transcription. But it would seem to confirm the point that there is another source for the song than the Greinnert copy score-and this other source has been used in all British performances that I have ever seen or heard. Since these performances were with orchestra, they were presumably not taken from Sing with Sullivan!

J. DERRICK McCLURE: "A Laughing Boy", is a grand song with a fine martial swing to it, and would provide an excellent contrast to the portentous "When our gallant Norman foes" (a magnificent number, the best alto song in the canon-who was so glaikit as to call it "stodgy"???). But the trouble is this-it provides an enormous build-up for the immediate entry of a character who-speaks a few lines, sings in a trio, and then vanishes! What's the sense in a fine big song about somebody who's only there so that somebody else can pinch his name?

BRUCE I. MILLER: Leonard himself may not be on stage very long, but he's like the beachcomber (?) role Frederick March, a.k.a. Norman Maine, was offered in A Star is Born-he's only in one scene, but you think about him all through the picture. Given how largely the character of Leonard looms over Yeomen, I don't think the song ought to be cut.

J. DERRICK McCLURE: Has anybody thought of re-shaping the first-act finale so that Meryll can sing it about Fairfax, reinforcing the pretense that he's Leonard? Would that be too radical a change?

TOM SHEPARD: If one chose to go forward with this interpolation, let Meryll launch into the song after the Yeomen sing. "...cheer on cheer, hurrah hurrah hurrah", probably bringing in the orchestral intro of "Laughing Boy" under the last "hurrah." Then, after "Laughing Boy", go into the orchestral intro to Meryll's "Ye tower warders" and continue as written.

BRUCE I. MILLER: Well, there are two major problems with doing what Tom has suggested to moving "Laughing Boy" into the Act I finale (and apologies in advance for getting so technical).

First: it disrupts Sullivan's key-scheme for the Act I Finale. "Oh Sergeant Meryll, is it true" is in B flat major (the same key as "Laughing Boy") but by the time we get to the "Hurrah's" he's modulated into E flat.

Second: "Laughing Boy" is in a non-compatible time signature with what would surround it (3/4 as opposed to 4/4). It would take more than "legerdemain" to shoehorn "Laughing Boy" in, but substantial recomposition to introduce it.

Getting back in to Sgt. Meryll's recitative on "Ye Tower Warders" would not be as problematic, assuming the full stop for applause at the end of the song, but this would disrupt the seamless nature of the present finale.

What this all suggests is, perhaps, to leave well enough alone.

TOM SHEPARD: A reasonably competent arranger-orchestrator can handle this with a minimum of attention being called to the device. This sort of cutting and pasting is absolutely par for the course in all contemporary works and can be applied quite efficiently to Yeomen if we so desired.

BRUCE I. MILLER: There are examples in the operas in which musical numbers were shifted in position, but not usually in the finales (I cannot think of a single example. The closest I can come to is the quintet just prior to the Act II finale of The Gondoliers, which was originally in Act I).

Interrupting the musical continuity of such a Mozartean finale is simply not quite the same thing as with most contemporary works-Sondheim being a major and probably lonely exception. "Efficient" and competent such a hack job might be, but I doubt very much whether Sullivan would have assigned such a task to someone else, were he still alive. He would have insisted on doing so himself, rather than trust the rewriting to another composer.

There is an example of this kind of rewrite in Iolanthe, made necessary by the cutting of the "coronet" couplets. The recitative "Nay, tempt me not" is just such a cut/and/paste job, but was clearly conceived by Sullivan and supervised by him, with someone else carrying out the operation. The older composition was substantially rewritten, using most of the old material but with modulations revised, new words substituted for old (with revised rhythms) and melodic underlays altered.

For someone a century removed to tamper with Yeomen would be perhaps fascinating but inevitably open to question.

"Mozartean" did not imply that Sullivan's music was Mozart's, or even the equal of what Mozart would have written, but to define, more or less, the style and type of finale Sullivan had written. I doubt there are many such examples being written in contemporary musical theater, or even of an equivalent intellectual concept (Sondheim, as I mentioned, being an exception).

I didn't realize until just now that Tom had suggested cutting in "Laughing Boy" before the Yeomen sing the big "Leonard Meryll" fanfares. That solves the modulation problem but doesn't resolve fully the one of balance or meter. Again, had Sullivan himself moved the song into the finale, he would undoubtedly have revised the entire section. It's not simply a cut/and/paste but a major rewrite. Traces of this kind of operation can be seen in a number of his mss.-Mikado's Act 1 finale is a prime example. I don't agree that inserting the song could be achieved without the probability of substantial disruption to the piece as it now stands, but without an actual suggested rewrite to examine, the whole discussion is for now theoretical.

"When Jealous Torments Wrack My Soul"

MIDI File and Lyrics

LARRY T. GARVIN: Reinstate "When jealous torments." It helps establish Wilfred's character, and gives him some singing before the Act I finale. It isn't one of Sullivan's finest melodies, but the orchestration is effective and the song has worked well in the productions I've seen that have included it.

MICHAEL WALTERS: My own feeling is that "When jealous torments" does not work in its present position, as it holds up the action too much. It makes me impatient to reach the first entry of the chorus. But it is a worth while song, and a pity to lose it-if somewhere else could be found to put it?

ANDREW CROWTHER: I've said before that I think "Jealous Torments" is just about the only "lost song" in G&S that really deserves to be found again. It illuminates so much of Wilfred's character. It's earthy, with a half-submerged implication of sexual frustration, comic in a slightly sinister way. The "conceit" which binds it-listing things and creatures which can go places Wilfred can't-seems to fit the period perfectly. (Well, I think so.) Again, I come back to the point that Gilbert seems to be making especial efforts to explore the possibilities of lyric-writing, and we can see that coming through in this song. It doesn't have the feeling of "typical" Gilbert: the "un-Victorian" earthiness and the frankness of the emotions are unusual.

TOM SHEPARD: Definitely put it back. It is a courageously-wrought number.

TOM GROVES: What do the Phœbe's out there think of reinstating both tunes since they are both sung to her (or could be staged that way)? Too much time on stage in the first act?

MARY A. FINN: I agree, it is often difficult being the "singee" rather than the "singer", but if I were Phœbe, I'd consider it an acting challenge.

PHILIP STERNENBERG: Remember that Phœbe gets even by making Wilfred listen to her entire second song. Of course, Wilfreds I've known have relished the opportunity!

TOM GROVES: Shadbolt's tune can be a real star turn, though that shouldn't be the only reason for doing it. You don't really need it to establish his character-the first dialog scene with Phœbe does that quite well. I don't know why it was cut, since it is funny, and I can't believe that Sullivan intended one of his major characters to go noteless for so long.

RONALD ORENSTEIN: I agree that the dialogue before Wilfred's song makes the point, but the song (which I tried to deliver quite ferociously) hammers it home in a way that is, I think, most necessary considering that he is offstage for some time and otherwise does not sing until the Act I finale. The song can establish him as a real force to be reckoned with-it is not a matter of extra information but of greater emphasis. I would hate to do Wilfred without it.

When "Jealous torments" is not sung to Phœbe, she is offstage, having exited on her last line.

TOM GROVES: Phœbe's exit line is "It was mere politeness to comparative strangers". Shadbolt's next line could be delivered to the wings, and he could then sing the song alone on stage. I have thought about it (and have asked for advice from several including the learned Mr. Miller). Phœbe could stay onstage for the first verse since it's about torments, hot coals, and the fact that she's a heartless jade. The second verse gets more personal, with kerchief and belts, so perhaps she should exit at the first mention or be gone before the verse begins. The third section (the bird, cat) is probably best delivered alone.

As to emotions, three come to mind-angry (could undermine the essential naiveté and childlike nature of our hero) lewd (the text allows for it, but too obvious and not particularly interesting) or simple frustration of a non-sexual nature. I am leaning towards the last. I think the song should provoke some laughter and smiles from the audience-he is not a tragic character.

RONALD ORENSTEIN: I played the first line of the speech offstage, then did the rest as a monologue (Wilfred muttering to himself), working my way downstage for the song.

BRUCE I. MILLER: Gilbert's directions in his original manuscript of the text is that Wilfred's song is "Sung to J. Bond".

PHILIP STERNENBERG: The impression I get is that it's what Wilfred has no trouble saying to Phœbe as long as she isn't there to hear it. In the present libretto, Wilfred's last line of dialogue is spoken after Phœbe leaves, and I guessed that the song would have been sung after her departure as well.

I still think it's better sung with no one else on stage, and I like the preference of Tom Groves towards "simple frustration of a non-sexual nature."

BRUCE I. MILLER: "Jealous torments" is not as substantial musically as "Laughing Boy", although it is colorful, with an extremely resourceful and unique setting for the third verse. A good Wilfred can make a fine thing of it. It was cut after having been sung at a single rehearsal by Mr. Denny. Why, exactly, it was cut is unclear, but the recent Jack the Ripper murders might have made G&S gun-shy about portraying grisly thoughts, especially in a sexual context. It's also possible they didn't care for Denny's performance. A third possibility is that the authors decided it didn't work as a musical number.

ANDREW CROWTHER: I didn't know about the song having been dropped after one rehearsal. Where did you learn this? Is it in Sullivan's diaries?

BRUCE I. MILLER: The primary source information comes from Sullivan's diaries, which were mentioned in an article in the Gilbert and Sullivan Journal written by John C. G. George, which was recently forwarded to me by Michael Walters.

What is particularly unfortunate about cutting "Jealous torments" is the rupturing of the musical continuity of the opera as a whole. Sullivan used motives in it which reappear in the Act I finale, and it was an important unifying musical link in the score.

TOM GROVES: Fascinating-I never thought of it that way. Where does this occur in the Act 1 finale? I don't have the full score and can't make the connection to Shadbolt's part in the finale via the piano reduction.

RONALD ORENSTEIN: I assume Bruce means the rushing scales at the end of the first act, which do recall the refrain of Wilfred's song though the connection never occurred to me-perhaps (if this is deliberate) it links Point's alarm at Elsie fainting in Fairfax's arms with Wilfred's jealousy of the attention Phœbe gives the same individual.

BRUCE I. MILLER: Observe the scale passages Wilfred sings throughout "Jealous Torments"; then note how the introduction to Tower Warders is played by the orchestra. There is a subtle difference-ponderous and not quite healthy for Wilfred, but excitingly vigorous for the townspeople as a whole. Then, in the final chorus of the Act I finale, Wilfred's C major scale is reflected almost precisely in the men's section on the words "a thousand marks". Then look at the scale passages in the orchestral close of the Finale. Here the scales evolve into Phœbe's teasing line "take those favors from me"; the orchestra's repetition of the final two notes of that phrase, in turn, evolves into a mockery of Jack Point. Sullivan seems to use these scales to describe, musically, the emotions and characters of the people involved, as well as to generally place the people in an historic context against the other musical motives in the opera.

On the subject of scales, Wilfred's big solo in the first act finale, "To thy fraternal care", begins with two scales-the first in the brass, accompanying his first words, and then Wilfred has a scale on the words "[thy] sister I commend". Then he has yet another set of scales on the words "From dim twilight till 'leven at night."

Also note his scale passage on "[To thy] fond care I do commend thy sister" in the preceding recitative.

These scales cannot have been written coincidentally.

"Is Life A Boon?" Which Version?

LARRY T. GARVIN: Use the standard "Is life a boon?". The older version is rather ornamented and Italianate-not entirely in keeping with Fairfax's other music. The simplicity of the standard setting may have been called perfunctory by some, but proves effective (and simplicity is not the same as perfunctoriness).

TOM SHEPARD: The old version didn't work, and WSG knew it.

BRUCE I. MILLER: No contest here-the revision is superior to the longer, more elaborate original. In this case, less is far more. The first version is interesting for many reasons, but it is much less satisfactory in the context of the opera and should never be substituted for the final version.

PHILIP STERNENBERG: It's interesting to note how Sullivan handled "Is life a boon?", and in two different surviving ways.

Gilbert gave him two verses with precisely the same meter, hence a single melody could have sufficed. Look at the division of complete thoughts in each verse, though. I'll not bother to write out the lyrics but ask whoever is reading this to get out a standard libretto and follow along.

Each verse has 11 lines of lyrics in its original form, not counting repetitions that occur due to any musical setting.

In Verse 1, the complete thoughts end at Lines 1 (boon), 4 (soon), 7 (moon), 9 (July), and 11 (June).

In Verse 2, the complete thoughts end at Lines 1 (thorn), 2 (whit), 3 (it), 6 (away), 9 (give), and 11 (morn).

Now, a setting that followed not only the rhythm but the meaning of Verse 1 would probably be inappropriate for Verse 2. Sullivan's original 6/8 approach was to provide substantially different melodies for the two verses, although they become a single melody for the last two lines in each verse.

When he tried again with the current version, he did manage to use a single melody, yet he made it conform properly to both verses. How? By the simple means of repeating one line of lyrics in each verse-but at different points in the two verses. He now had two 12-line verses. (We'll ignore the repetition of the final two lines in each verse, as the repetition is common to both verses and doesn't affect this discussion.)

In Verse 1, he repeated Line 9, so the complete thoughts now end at renumbered Lines 1, 4, 7, and 10 (with 10 actually a repeat of 9).

In Verse 2, he repeated Line 2, so the complete thoughts now end at renumbered Lines 1, 3, 4, 7, and 10 compatibly with Verse 1.

Because of this staggering, the verses aren't precisely the same melody as the words scan differently, and the accompaniment changes, but they're close enough. Hence we have a graphic example of how much attention to the meaning of lyrics Sullivan really did pay for the most part.

"Didst Thou Not, Oh Leonard Meryll"

LARRY T. GARVIN: Probably do the usual cut in "Didst thou not." The point is made well enough by the verses kept, and the transition is rather awkward. I suppose I could be persuaded to keep it in as the price of getting some good men in the chorus who might not do it without some sort of solo.

TOM SHEPARD: The standard version is half the length of the original, which was cut shortly before opening night at Gilbert's insistence. The half-length is quite enough. The "new" acts of bravery mentioned in the second verse add little or nothing, and they are hard to understand.

BRUCE I. MILLER: The couplets in the Act I finale - "Didst thou not, oh Leonard Meryll." In restoring them it is important to have the 1st ending orchestral music which bridges the two sets of verses. These bars exist in Sullivan's autograph and we used them in the Sudbury performances. (The first ending and second verse words are not crossed out in the autograph.) It became clear to me that the truncated, cut version is much less satisfactory from the musical point of view; the balance which builds to a strong musical climax is disrupted by cutting to the coda after the first verse.

As to whether it significantly slows down the dramatic pace, I'm not convinced this is true. The music is fun to perform, especially if done with a stronger, more vigorous pulse than one ordinarily hears. It does also give some chorus members opportunities they might not otherwise have to do solo work, and frankly we did use this as a means of encouraging additional male chorus members to stay in the group.

"Rapture, Rapture"

LARRY T. GARVIN: Keep "Rapture, rapture," by all means. It's a little out of keeping with the dark tone of the end of the work, but the comic relief has its value. And it's such a delightful selection!

TOM SHEPARD: It's fun; why not do it?

BRUCE I. MILLER: Leave it in! It helps to emphasize the dichotomy between comedy and tragedy, and helps maintain the ambivalence which is so important to the overall effect of the opera.

SAM L. CLAPP: Perhaps this shall be dismissed (but I might add it sits with John Owen Edwards as the best reason he's ever heard to keep "Rapture" there) as, er, "youthful overingenuity," but isn't "Rapture, rapture" in complete congruity with one of the overall themes of Yeomen: "He who'd make his fellow creature wise should always gild the philosophic pill"? I therefore think the song relevant, justified, and necessary.

Chords Between "Rapture, Rapture" And The Intro To "Comes The Pretty Young Bride"

LARRY T. GARVIN: Cut the chords. The audience needs a chance to applaud after "Rapture, rapture." If one plows on, some of the audience will applaud, thus drowning out the beginning of the lovely introduction to the Act II finale. Even if Sullivan did write in the chords, they're harmonically a bit awkward and dramatically dubious. Out, out.

TOM SHEPARD: It all depends what the mood is onstage at that moment. You have to determine if the chords enhance or detract from Elsie's entrance.

BRUCE I. MILLER: As to the final chords; they are similar to the a link in the identical spot in Gondoliers, and it doesn't matter to me that they are sometimes covered partially by applause. If the timing of the music, playoff dance and beginning of the finale are well paced, there is no problem.

LARRY BYLER: I think the chords are musically "cute", if that conveys anything. But I agree that they should be cut. In addition to Larry's two points above, it's impossible to add any "passage of time" artifacts (such as South Anglia's blackout in the Philadelphia Yeomen last year) if you've pounded ahead with the anticipation chords.

PAUL McSHANE: In all the discussion about reinstating the lost songs, it seems to me that the focus has been on the quality of the songs themselves, rather than on the cumulative effect of them on the opera itself. I think that Gilbert was quite right to be worried.

TOM SHEPARD: Yes, he was right to be worried, especially when presenting this to a brand new audience. But as a century-old revival with a lot of knowing members in the audience, it makes a lot of sense to try to re-instate at least some of the "lost" songs. We do not need to be swept away by the plot; we need to revel in a favorite work.

PAUL McSHANE: I concede Tom's point about the value of restoring them to present to a bunch of G&S fans-such as at Festival time. (I would love to hear them, too.) However, we stalwarts are not in the majority of most audiences, and I would hate to see directors drive away potential G&S fans by prolonging the front part of Act I any further with extra songs that do nothing to lighten the mood of the piece.

Page created 7 June 1997