By Gayden Wren
Written greater than a century in the past and at first appeared even by way of their creators as not anything greater than mild leisure, the fourteen operas of Gilbert & Sullivan emerged over the process the 20 th century because the world's most well liked physique of musical-theater works, rating moment merely to Shakespeare within the historical past of English-language theater. regardless of this resounding acceptance and confirmed durability, so much books written concerning the duo have inquisitive about the authors instead of the works. With this particular exam of all fourteen operas, Gayden Wren fills this void. His daring thesis unearths the major to the operas' toughness, now not within the shrewdpermanent lyrics, witty discussion, or catchy song, yet within the principal topics underlying the characters and tales themselves. Like Shakespeare's comedies, Wren exhibits, the operas of Gilbert & Sullivan suffer due to their undying subject matters, which converse to audiences as powerfully now as they did the 1st time they have been played. Written out of an abiding love for the Savoy operas, this quantity is vital interpreting for any devotee of those enthralling works, or certainly for someone who loves musical theater.
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Additional info for A Most Ingenious Paradox: The Art of Gilbert and Sullivan
The falling-asleep/waking-up sequence is theatrically strong, while making Act 2 a nighttime scene (as “previously” done in H. M. S. Pinafore, The Pirates of Penzance, and Iolanthe), instantly imparts a more evocative dramatic atmosphere. As for “If You’ll Marry Me” and the preceding “Why, Where Be I,” this is the only scene in the opera offering anything approaching the rich chorus material of later Gilbert & Sullivan. Apparently the mature Gilbert & Sullivan were a bit embarrassed by The Sorcerer’s clunkiness and in their revision ﬁxed as much as they felt they could, given that the show had, after all, been a resounding success in its original form.
5 Richard D’Oyly Carte would later propose Christmas revivals of the show in 1875 and in 1895, though neither materialized. It’s natural that Thespis seems a failure when viewed in the context of the later operas, as is inevitable today. To a sensibility accustomed to the Savoy operas, Thespis is foreign. It must be acknowledged as such and judged accordingly, in the same way that Gilbert’s earlier plays or Sullivan’s later operas demand assessment on their own terms. A balanced judgment probably ﬁnds Thespis a ﬂawed but promising work, deserving both the lavish praise and the sarcastic criticism that various reviewers provided.
The latter is the work of prominent artists with a track record in the genre; they are taken seriously, and thus they take their work seriously. Trial by Jury, though its success made the greater aspirations of The Sorcerer possible, is the work of two relatively young men having fun with a genre that neither takes very seriously. Their delight in the form comes through clearly, as does their irreverent attitude toward its many constraining conventions—an attitude that soon led them to begin a wholesale reshaping of the genre.