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Musique: Arthur Sullivan • Paroles: Livret: F. C. Burnand • Production originale: 2 versions mentionnées
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With this little work, Arthur Sullivan made his first entry into the world of comic opera. He had already completed his first operatic work during the early 1860's, but that work (The Sapphire Necklace or The False Heiress with libretto by H. F. Chorley) never reached the stage, and although the rights of publication were, at one point, assigned to the publisher, Metzler, the opera was never printed.
Genèse: The Moray Minstrels were an informal gathering of notable members of London society and the arts, including painters, actors and writers (all male), who were mostly amateur musicians. They would meet for musical evenings at Moray Lodge, in Kensington, the home of Arthur James Lewis (1824–1901), a haberdasher and silk merchant (of the firm Lewis & Allenby), who married the actress Kate Terry in 1867. The Minstrels would discuss the arts, smoke and sing part-songs and other popular music at monthly gatherings of more than 150 lovers of the arts; their conductor was John Foster. Foster, as well as the dramatist F. C. Burnand and many other members were friendly with young Arthur Sullivan, who joined the group. On one occasion in early 1865, they heard a performance of Offenbach's short two-man operetta Les deux aveugles ("The Two Blind Men"). After seeing another operetta at Moray Lodge the following winter, Burnand asked Sullivan to collaborate on a new piece to be performed for the Minstrels. Burnand adapted the libretto for this "triumviretta" from John Maddison Morton's famous farce, Box and Cox, which had premiered in London in 1847, starring J. B. Buckstone. The text follows Morton's play closely, differing in only two notable respects. First, in the play the protagonists lodge with Mrs Bouncer; in Burnand's version the character is Sergeant Bouncer. This change was necessitated by the intention of performing the piece for the all-male gathering of the Moray Minstrels. Secondly, Burnand wrote original lyrics to be set to music by the 24-year-old Sullivan. The date and venue of the first performance was much disputed, starting in 1890, in duelling letters to The World, with Burnand and Lewis each claiming to have hosted it. Andrew Lamb has concluded that the run-through at Burnand's home on 23 May 1866 was a rehearsal, followed by the first performance at Lewis's home on 26 May 1866. A printed programme for the 23 May performance later surfaced, suggesting more than a mere rehearsal, but the composer himself supported the later date, writing to The World, "I feel bound to say that Burnand's version came upon me with the freshness of a novel. My own recollection of the business is perfectly distinct". George Grove noted in his diary of 13 May that he attended a performance of Cox and Box, which Lamb takes to have been an open rehearsal; however, Foster calls the performance at Burnand's house a rehearsal. The original cast was George du Maurier as Box, Harold Power as Cox, and John Foster as Bouncer, with Sullivan himself improvising the accompaniment at the piano. Another performance at Moray Lodge took place eleven months later on 26 April 1867. This was followed by the first public performance, which was given as part of a charity benefit by the Moray Minstrels (along with Kate, Florence and Ellen Terry and others) for the widow and children of C. H. Bennett, on 11 May 1867 at the Adelphi Theatre, with du Maurier as Box, Quintin Twiss as Cox and Arthur Cecil as Bouncer, performing as an amateur under his birth name, Arthur Blunt. A review in The Times commented that Burnand had adapted Morton's libretto well, and that Sullivan's music was "full of sparking tune and real comic humour". The rest of the evening's entertainment included a musicale by the Moray Minstrels, the play A Wolf in Sheep's Clothing and Les deux aveugles. The opera was heard with a full orchestra for the first time on that occasion, with Sullivan completing the orchestration a matter of hours before the first rehearsal. The Musical World praised both author and composer, suggesting that the piece would gain success if presented professionally. It was repeated on 18 May 1867 at the Royal Gallery of Illustration in Regent Street. The critic for the magazine Fun, W. S. Gilbert, wrote of the 11 May performance: Mr. Burnand's version of Box and Cox ... is capitally written, and Mr. Sullivan's music is charming throughout. The faults of the piece, as it stands, are twain. Firstly: Mr. Burnand should have operatized the whole farce, condensing it, at the same time, into the smallest compass, consistent with an intelligible reading of the plot. ... Secondly, Mr. Sullivan's music is, in many places, of too high a class for the grotesquely absurd plot to which it is wedded. It is very funny, here and there, and grand or graceful where it is not funny; but the grand and the graceful have, we think, too large a share of the honours to themselves. The music was capitally sung by Messrs. Du Maurier, Quintin, and Blunt. At yet another charity performance, at the Theatre Royal, Manchester, on 29 July 1867, the overture was heard for the first time. The autograph full score is inscribed, Ouverture à la Triumvirette musicale 'Cox et Boxe' et 'Bouncer' composée par Arthur S. Sullivan, Paris, 23 Juillet 1867. Hotel Meurice. The duet, "Stay, Bouncer, stay!" was probably first heard in this revival. There were discussions about an 1867 professional production under the management of Thomas German Reed, but instead Reed commissioned Sullivan and Burnand to write a two-act comic opera, The Contrabandista, which was less well received. Cox and Box had its first professional production under Reed's management at the Royal Gallery of Illustration on Easter Monday, 29 March 1869, with Gilbert and Frederic Clay's No Cards preceding it on the bill. The occasion marked the professional debut of Arthur Cecil, who played Box. German Reed played Cox and F. Seymour played Bouncer. Cox and Box ran until 20 March 1870, a total of 264 performances, with a further 23 performances on tour. The production was a hit, although critics lamented the loss of Sullivan's orchestration (the Gallery of Illustration was too small for an orchestra): "The operetta loses something by the substitution... of a piano and harmonium accompaniment for the orchestral parts which Mr. Sullivan knows so well how to write; but the music is nevertheless welcome in any shape." Subsequent productions Cox and Box quickly became a Victorian staple, with additional productions in Manchester in 1869 and on tour in 1871 (conducted by Richard D'Oyly Carte, with the composer's brother Fred playing Cox), at London's Alhambra Theatre in 1871, with Fred as Cox, and at the Gaiety Theatre in 1872, 1873, and 1874 (the last of these again starring Fred as Cox and Cecil as Box), and Manchester again in 1874 (paired with The Contrabandista). There were also numerous charity performances beginning in 1867, including two at the Gaiety during the run of Thespis, and another in Switzerland in 1879 with Sullivan himself as Cox and Cecil as Box. Sullivan sometimes accompanied these performances. The cast for a performance at the Gaiety in 1880 included Cecil as Box, George Grossmith as Cox and Corney Grain as Bouncer. The first documented American production opened on 14 April 1879 at the Standard Theatre, in New York, as a curtain raiser to a "pirated" production of H.M.S. Pinafore. In an 1884 production at the Court Theatre, the piece played together with Gilbert's Dan'l Druce, Blacksmith (but later in the year with other pieces), with Richard Temple as Cox, Cecil as Box, and Furneaux Cook as Bouncer. This production was revived in 1888, with Cecil, Eric Lewis and William Lugg playing Box, Cox and Bouncer. The first D'Oyly Carte Opera Company performance of the piece was on 31 December 1894, to accompany another Sullivan–Burnand opera, The Chieftain, which had opened on 12 December at the Savoy Theatre. For this production Sullivan cut the "Sixes" duet and verses from several other numbers, and dialogue cuts were also made. Temple played Bouncer and Scott Russell was Cox. It then was played by several D'Oyly Carte touring companies in 1895 and 1896. In 1900, the piece was presented at the Coronet Theatre with Courtice Pounds as Box. In 1921, Rupert D'Oyly Carte introduced Cox and Box as a curtain raiser to The Sorcerer, with additional cuts prepared by J. M. Gordon and Harry Norris. This slimmed-down "Savoy Version" remained in the company’s repertory as curtain raiser for the shorter Savoy Operas. By the 1960s, Cox and Box was the usual companion piece to The Pirates of Penzance. It received its final D'Oyly Carte performance on 16 February 1977. Many amateur theatre companies have also staged Cox and Box – either alone or together with one of the shorter Savoy Operas. In recent years, after the rediscovery of the one-act Sullivan and B. C. Stephenson opera, The Zoo, Cox and Box has sometimes been presented as part of an evening of the three Sullivan one-act operas, sharing a bill with The Zoo and Trial by Jury.
Résumé: Sergeant Bouncer, an old soldier, has a scheme to get double rent from a single room. By day he lets it to Mr. Box (a printer who is out all night) and by night to Mr. Cox (a hatter who works all day). Whenever either of them asks any awkward questions he sings at length about his days in the militia. His plan works well until Mr. Cox is, unexpectedly, given a day's holiday and the two lodgers meet. Left alone while Bouncer sorts out another room, they discover they share more than the same bed. Cox is engaged to the widow Penelope Ann Wiggins - a fate that Box escaped by pretending to commit suicide. They try gambling Penelope Ann away until news arrives that she has been lost at sea and has left her fortune to her 'intended'. They then both try to claim her for themselves. Another letter arrives - she has been found and will arrive any minute. Now they both try to disclaim her! However, she doesn't appear personally, instead leaving a letter to inform them that she intends to marry a Mr. Knox! Relieved, Cox and Box swear eternal friendship and discover, curiously enough, that they are long-lost brothers…
Création: 11/5/1867 - Adelphi Theatre (Londres) - représ.
Musique: Arthur Sullivan • Paroles: Livret: W.S. Gilbert • Production originale: 1 version mentionnée
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Il s’agit de la première collaboration de Gilbert et Sullivan et a été conçue comme un divertissement de Noël pour le Gaiety Theatre de John Hollingshead où s'est déroulé la première représentation, le 26 décembre 1871, et a connu 63 représentations. Bien qu'il ait souvent été décrit comme un échec, il a accueilli plus de spectateurs que les autres spectacles de Noël cette saison-là.
Genèse: L’imprésario et auteur John Hollingshead, le gestionnaire du Gaiety Theatre de Londres depuis 1868, avaient produit avec succès un certain nombre de burlesques et d’opérettes. Hollingshead se targuait d’avoir «gardé allumée la lampe sacrée du burlesque».
Gilbert et Sullivan connaissaient chacun le Gaiety et ses artistes. L’œuvre de Gilbert, Robert the Devil (une parodie de l'opéra Robert le Diable) avait été jouée lors de l’ouverture du théâtre le 21 décembre 1868, avec Nellie Favre dans le rôle-titre et a tenu l’affiche pendant plus de 100 soirs. Constance Loseby et Annie Tremaine (qui auront toutes deux des rôles dans Thespis) étaient également dans le casting de Robert the Devil, et Arthur Sullivan était lui dans le public de cette prestigieuse soirée d'ouverture comme l'un des invités de Hollingshead. Cela fut un grand succès, «reçu par une tempête d'applaudissements». Avec moins de succès, Gilbert avait également écrit une pièce de théâtre en 1869, An Old Score. Hollingshead dira plus tard que la pièce était «trop vraie que nature». Fin septembre ou début octobre 1871, les programmes du Gaiety Theatre annoncèrent que «The Christmas Operatic Extravaganza serait écrite par Gilbert, avec une musique originale par Arthur Sullivan». Il y aurait un rôle majeur pour le comédien populaire »J. L. Toole, ainsi que pour Farren, star du burlesque.
Quand et comment le duo Gilbert et Sullivan en est venu à collaborer sur Thespis est incertain. Gilbert était un choix logique. Il avait créé sept opéras et pièces cette année-là sans parler d’une douzaine de burlesques, farces et extravaganzas, il était bien connu dans le monde théâtral de Londres comme un important auteur dramatique comique. Sullivan, lui à cette époque, était principalement connu pour sa musique sérieuse. Cette année-là, il avait composé la cantate On Shore and Sea, des musiques de scène pour The Merchant of Venice de Shakespeare et de nombreux hymnes, dont Onward, Christian Soldiers. Il n'avait que deux opéras-comiques à son crédit, Cox et Box (1866) et The Contrabandista (1867), mais ce dernier datait déjà de plus de quatre ans et avait été un échec. En septembre 1871, Sullivan avait été engagé comme chef d’orchestre au The Royal National Opera, mais ce fut une catastrophe et il se retrouvait sans emploi. L'offre de Hollingshead d'un rôle à son frère, Fred Sullivan, l’a sans doute encouragé à composer la musique de Thespis.
Cette production a suscité beaucoup d'intérêt et de spéculation. Ironiquement, la première représentation du modeste Thespis, première collaboration de Gilbert et Sullivan, sera jouée devant une audience bien plus grande que lors des premières londoniennes des 13 autres œuvres qui allaient suivre, car le Gaiety Theatre était le plus grand des cinq théâtres de Londres dans lequel le duo allait travailler.
Gilbert avait un automne occupé. Sa pièce On Guard avait ouvert le 28 octobre 1871 au Court Theatre, mais fut un échec. Sa pièce la plus réussie à ce jour, Pygmalion and Galatea, a ouvert le 9 décembre, quelques jours seulement avant que les répétitions de Thespis commencent. Sullivan avait lui plus de temps libre après avoir composé la musique de scène de pour une production de Manchester de The Merchant of Venice et qui fut créé le 9 septembre.
Gilbert et Sullivan ont souvent rappelé que Thespis avait été écrit à la hâte. Sullivan a rappelé simplement que: «La musique et le livret ont été écrit très rapidement». Dans son autobiographie de 1883, Gilbert a écrit:
Peu de temps après la production de Pygmalion et Galatea, j’ai écrit mon premier de nombreux livrets d’opéra, en collaboration avec Monsieur Arthur Sullivan. Il s'agissait de Thespis, or The Gods Grown Old. Il a été écrit en moins de trois semaines et joué au Gaiety Theatre après une semaine de répétition. Il s'est joué 80 soirs, mais c’était une œuvre brute et inefficace, comme on pouvait s’y attendre, compte tenu des circonstances de composition rapide.
En 1902, les souvenirs de Gilbert modifient la durée de création à cinq semaines:
Je peux affirmer que Thespis n'a en aucune façon été un échec même si il n’a pas eu un succès considérable. Selon moi, il s'est joué environ 70 soirs — une belle série à cette époque. L'oeuvre a été produite sous les stress d'une grosse contrainte de délai. Il a été imaginé, écrit, composé, répété et produit en cinq semaines.
Estimation de cinq semaines de Gilbert est en contradiction avec d’autres faits apparemment incontestables. Le neveu de Sullivan, Herbert Sullivan, a écrit que le livret existait déjà avant que son oncle s’implique dans le projet: «Gilbert a montré à Hollingshead le livret d’un opéra féerique, Thespis et Hollingshead l'a immédiatement envoyé à Sullivan pour qu'il compose.» Gilbert écrivait en général des esquisses de ses livrets quelques mois avant une production mais n'écrivait jamais la version définitive avant d’avoir un engagement ferme pour le produire. A tout le moins, un «brouillon de l’intrigue» doit avoir existé avant le 30 octobre, à la lumière d’une lettre à cette date de l’agent de Gilbert à R. M. Field du Boston Museum Theatre où l'on peut lire:
À Noël sera créé au Gaiety Theatre, un nouvel et original Opéra-Bouffe en anglais, par W. S. Gilbert, et Arthur Sullivan. Il devrait être un grand succès — et le sens de ma présente lettre est — avant tout — de vous envoyer (ce jour) un brouillon de la pièce pour votre propre lecture et d’autre part vous demander — si vous assurez la protection de la pièce — de la vendre dans tous les lieux possibles aux États-Unis. Messieurs G & S sont actuellement en plein travail sur ladite pièce.
Gilbert a, en fait, conclu un accord avec Field, et le premier livret publié a mentionné: «Mise en garde aux pirates américains. — Le droit d’auteur des textes et de la musique de cette pièce, pour les États-Unis et le Canada, sont attribué à M. Field, du Boston Museum Theatre, par convention datée du 7 décembre 1871.» Est-ce que Field a mo,té l'oeuvre? On n'en sait rien. Mais les inquiètudes de Gilbert concernat le piratage aux Etats-Unis ne sont qu'un faible présage aux difficultés que lui et Sullivan rencontreront plus tard avec les productions «piratées» non autorisées de The Mikado, H.M.S. Pinafore et leurs autres œuvres populaires. Quoi qu'il en soit, le livret de Thespis été «publié et distribué» à Londres à la mi-décembre.
Avec la pièce devant ouvrir le 26 décembre,Gilbert a lu e livret au casting le 14 décembre, mais Toole, qui jouait le rôle principal de Thespis, n’est pas revenu d’une tournée des provinces britanniques avant le 18 décembre. Il a alors joué dans neuf représentations au Gaiety Theatre dans les six jours qui ont immédiatement suivi son retour. D’autres intervenants avaient des engagements similaires. En plus, Hollingshead avait engagé la compagnie pour jouer une pantomime au The Crystal Palace le 21 décembre, comprenant bon nombre des artistes qui seraient dans Thespis. Enfin, pour encore compliquer les choses, Thespis devait se jouer comme la deuxième pièce d'une même soirée. Elle devait suivre une comédie de H. J. Byron, Dearer than life, qui était jouée par un grand nombre des acteurs de Thespis, y compris Toole et Fred Sullivan. Ils répétaient donc deux pièces en même temps!
Malgré le peu de temps disponible pour les répétitions, Sullivan a rappelé que Gilbert a fortment insisté pour que le chœur joue un rôle majeur dans l'oeuvre, comme il le feront toujours plus tard dans les Savoy-opéras:
Jusqu'à ce que Gilbert ne prenne l'affaire en main, les chœurs ne faisaient pas partie des préoccupations des créateurs et n'étaient pratiquement rien d’autre qu’un élément de décor ou de figuration. C’est avec Thespis que Gilbert a commencé à concrétiser sa volonté expresse que le choeur joue son propre rôle dans le spectacle. Il est difficile d'imaginer qu'à cetté époque, faire jouer au choeur un autre rôle que celui d'une sorte de public placé sur scène, était une véritable révolution. Suite à cette innovation, certains des incidents lors des répétitions de Thespis sont plutôt amusants. Je me souviens que, une fois, une des actrices principales s'est indignée et a dit: «Vraiment, M. Gilbert, pourquoi devrais je me tenir ici? Je ne suis pas une fille de choeur!». Ce à quoi Gilbert a répondu sèchement: «Non, Madame, votre voix n’est pas assez forte, ou sans aucun doute, vous en feriez partie.»
La première n'avait pas été assez répétée, comme l’ont souligné plusieurs critiques, et des coupures étaient nécessaires: le Gaiety Theatre avait annoncé que les voitures pouvaient venir chercher les spectateurs à 23:00, mais Thespis se jouait toujours après minuit!!! The Orchestra a indiqué que «seulement un acteur... tenait bien son rôle». The Observer a fait remarquer que «le jeu et la mise en scène, devront être travaillés avant qu'on puisse émettre une critique (...) l’opéra n’était pas prêt». Le Daily Telegraph a suggéré qu'«il vaut mieux, pour de nombreuses raisons, considérer la représentation d'hier soir comme une répétition générale complète (...) Lorsque Thespis se terminera à une heure décente et qu'il aura été vraimet répété, nous y aurons plus de plaisir.»
Certains critiques sont très durs ou expriment leur désarroi. Le Hornet titre sa revue clairement: «Thespis; or, the Gods Grown Old est PÉNIBLE!». Le Morning Advertiser trouvé «un galimatias ennuyeux en deux actes (...) grotesque, sans esprit avec une musique légère, sans vivacité (...) toutefois pas totalement dépourvue de mélodie... Le rideau tombe devant un auditoire baillant et fatigué.» Mais d’autres critiques ont trouvé de nombreuses choses à admirer dans l'oeuvre, malgré la mauvaise représentation lors de l'opening night. Le Times Illustrated a écrit:
C’est terriblement grave pour M. W. S. Gilbert et Arthur Sullivan, coauteurs de Thespis, que leur oeuvre ait été produite de manière aussi baclée et insatisfaisante. Thespis mérite de réussir grâce à ses prpopres qualités - qualité littéraire, qualité humoristique, qualité des chansons; mais la production a paralysé une bonne pièce par un manque de répétitions et une volonté d'imposer un raffinement et un aplomb dont les opéras comiques n'ont aucun besoin. Je dois dire, cependant, que Thespis mérite d'être vu; et maintenant qu'il a été corrigé et attire le public du Gaiety Theatre, il tientdra ses promesses. C’est dommage, en effet, qu’une telle pièce, si riche en humour et si délicate dans la musique, ait été produite pour trouver un public de Boxing-Day (le 26 décembre en Angleterre). Tout aurait été bon pour une telle occasion... Mais, sauf si je me trompe beaucoup, et malgré les sifflets le soir de la première, les ballades et l’humour de M. Gilbert et les jolies mélodies de M. Arthur Sullivan vont sauver Thespis et feront de oeuvre — comme elle le mérite — la plus digne de louanges de cette saison de Noël.
Clement Scott, écrit dans le Daily Telegraph, a exprimé un avis majoritairment favorable:
Peut-être que le public d'un jour férié est peu enclin à plonger dans les mystères de la mythologie et ne se soucie pas de développr l’intelligence nécessaire pour dénouer une intrigue amusante et en aucun cas complexe... Ce qui est certain, toutefois, c'est que l’accueil recueilli par Thespis ne fut pas aussi chaleureux qu'attendu. L’histoire, écrite par M. W. S. Gilbert d'une manière si vivante, est très originale, et la musique composée par M. Arthur Sullivan est très jolie et passionante, que nous avons tendance à être déçu lorsque nous trouvons les applaudissements mous et les rires peu spontanés et surtout lorsqu'éclatent, à la chute du rideau, des cris de désapprobation. Un tel destin n’est certainement pas mérité, et le verdict d’hier soir ne peut être considéré comme définitif. Thespis est trop beau pour être mis sur le côté et trahi de cette façon: et nous prévoyons que des coupures judicieuses et les répétitions continues permettront de juger le spectacle très différemment.
The Observer a commenté: «Nous avons des auteurs et des musiciens aussi talentueux que les français... Le sujet de Thespis est incontestablement drôle... M. Arthur Sullivan a rejoint avec cœur l'esprit comique de M. Gilbert: il l’a égayé avec une musique fantaisiste et délicieuse.»
Beaucoup d'écrivains du début du XXe siècle ont perpétué le mythe que Thespis s’est joué seulement un mois et a été considéré comme un échec. En fait, il s’est joué jusqu'au 8 mars. Des neuf nouvelles pantomimes de Londres créées lors de la période des fêtes 1871–72, cinq ont fermé avant Thespis. Par sa nature-même, le genre ne se prêtait pas aux longues séries, et les neuf avaient fermé à la fin du mois de mars. En outre, le Gaiety Theatre présentait habituellement des productions qui restaient à l’affiche deux ou trois semaines; la série de Thespis peut donc être considérée comme extraordinairement longue pour ce théâtre.
Comme ils le feraient avec tous leurs opéras, Gilbert et Sullivan ont fait des coupes et des modifications après la première représentation. Deux jours après l'ouverture, Sullivan a écrit à sa mère: «J'ai rarement vu quelque chose de si beau en scène. La première a été bien accueillie, mais la musique a été mal interprétée et le chanteur a chanté un demi-ton trop haut, de sorte que l'enthousiasme du public n’est pas venu jusqu’à moi. Hier soir, j'ai coupé la chanson, la musique était parfaite et par conséquent j'ai eu un rappel très enthousiaste à la fin de l'acte II». Le spectacle a atteint un niveau très respectable, et les critiques qui assistèrent plus tard au spectacle étaient beaucoup plus enthousiastes que celles de l’opening night.
Lors de la troisième, le London Figaro pouvait déclarer: «Je dois dire qu’actuellement, il n’y a plus un seul accroc lors de la représentation. Les applaudissements et le plaisir évident des spectateurs de bout en bout le prouvent, la pièce durant deux heures». Le 6 janvier 1872, le Penny Illustrated Paper a commenté que «L’extravaganza de M. Gilbert au Gaiety Theatre a toute la faveur de public, à juste titre». Le 9 janvier, le Daily Telegraph a signalé une visite de son Altesse royale, le duc d'Édimbourg. Le 27 janvier, le Illustrated Times a fait remarquer qu’«Un amateur de théâtre ne réussira pas à trouver une place au Gaiety Theatre... Thespis peut, après tout, se vanter du succès qu’on lui avait prédit». Land and Water a écrit le 3 février que «Thespis est maintenant en parfait état de fonctionnement».
Les représentations de Thespis furent interrompues le 14 février 1872, le mercredi des cendres, les théâtres de Londres s'abstenant de présenter des spectacles en costumes par respect pour la fête religieuse. A la place, un «divertissement varié» a été présenté au Gaiety, comprenant des ventriloques, des numéros avec des chiens et, par pure coïncidence, un sketch parodiant le jeune acteur George Grossmith, qui, quelques années plus tard, deviendra le comédien principal de Gilbert et Sullivan.
Le 17 février, Henry Sutherland Edwards a écrit dans Musical World: «Dans presque toute conjonction de musique et de mots, il y a un sacrifice de l'un à l'autre; mais dans Thespis de bonnes occasions ont été données à la musique; et la musique magnifie le texte». Des commentaires similaires ont continué à paraître jusqu’au début mars, fermeture de Thespis.
La dernière représentation – qui sera aussi la dernière à laquelle les auteurs assisteront, le spectacle n’ayant jamais été repris de leur vivant – a eu lieu deux mois plus tard, le 27 avril, à une matinée au profit de Mlle Clary, la Sparkeion originale. Normalement, dans ce genre de circonstance, l’artiste choisit un spectacle qui a beaucoup de chances de bien se vendre, puisque les recettes lui seront reversées (diminuées des dépenses bien sûr), et que les billets sont généralement proposés à des prix «gonflés». L'actrice était une des stars du Gaiety Theatre, «non seulement grâce à sa voix mais aussi grâce à son délicieux accent français et, bien sûr, sa beauté». Certains parlaient «du charme de Mlle Clary, avec son joli visage et son magnifique anglais approximatif». Elle avait été magnifique comme Sparkeion, et sa chanson de l'acte II, Little Maid of Arcadee, est la seule qui ait été publiée.
Après la production de Thespis, Gilbert et Sullivan se sont séparés, ne se réunissant que trois ans plus tard, avec Richard d'Oyly Carte comme manager, pour produire Trial by Jury en 1875. Lorsque cette œuvre a été un succès inattendu, des discussions eurent rapidement lieu envisageant une reprise de Thespis pour les fêtes de Noël 1875. Gilbert a écrit à Sullivan:
«They seem very anxious to have it and wanted me to name definite terms. Of course I couldn't answer for you, but they pressed me so much to give them an idea of what our terms would be likely to be that I suggested that possibly we might be disposed to accept two guineas a night each with a guarantee of 100 nights minimum. Does this meet your views, & if so, could you get it done in time. I am going to re-write a considerable portion of the dialogue».
Ainger, Michael (2002). Gilbert and Sullivan – A Dual Biography. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
La reprise proposée a été mentionnée dans plusieurs autres lettres tout au long de l'automne 1875, jusqu'à ce que le 23 novembre, Gilbert écrive: «Je n'ai plus rien entendu au sujet de Thespis. Il est surprenant de voir la vitesse à laquelle ces capitalistes se tarissent sous l'influence magique du mot ‘acompte’». En 1895, Richard d'Oyly Carte se battant pour retrouver un succès au Savoy Theatre, Gilbert lui a une nouvelle fois proposé une reprise de Thespis, mais l'idée n'a pas été suivie. Aucune trace de la musique de Thespis n'existe plus depuis 1897, et des chercheurs ont inspecté de très nombreuses collections existantes. A l'exception de deux chansons et des musiques de ballet, la partition est considérée aujourd’hui comme perdue.
On n’a aucune bonne raison expliquant cette absence de reprise de Thespis. Certains commentateurs spéculent que Sullivan a utilisé la musique dans ses autres opéras. Si cela était vrai, cela permettrait de justifier pourquoi une reprise a été impossible. Mais on n’a aucune preuve que Sullivan l'ai fait. Une autre explication possible est que Gilbert et Sullivan en sont venu à penser que Thespis – avec ses filles en collants et jupes courtes mais aussi tout cet humour burlesque – était le genre de spectacle qu'ils souhaitaient maintenant éviter. Ils ont plus tard renoncé aux rôles travestis et aux robes révélant trop les formes de leurs actrices. Ils ont fait publiquement connaître leur désapprobation de ce genre. En 1885, Hollingshead a écrit à la Pall Mall Gazette: «M. Gilbert est un peu sévère au sujet du burlesque, genre qu'il participa beaucoup à populariser dans l'ancien temps avant qu'il invente ce que je peux appeler le burlesque en vêtements longs. (…) M. Gilbert jamais ne s'est opposé aux robes de Robert the Devil ni aux robes de Thespis».
En 1879, Sullivan, Gilbert et Carte étaient au milieu d'une bataille juridique avec les anciens directeurs de la Comedy Opera Company, qui avait produit H.M.S. Pinafore. Sullivan a écrit à Hollingshead:
«You once settled a precedent for me which may just at present be of great importance to me. I asked you for the band parts of the Merry Wives of Windsor... and [you] said, 'They are yours, as our run is over....' Now will you please let me have them, and the parts of Thespis also at once. I am detaining the parts of Pinafore, so that the directors shall not take them away from the Comique tomorrow, and I base my claim on the precedent you set.»
Rees, Terence (1964). Thespis – A Gilbert & Sullivan Enigma. London: Dillon's University Bookshop.
Après la dernière représentation au Gaiety Theatre en 1872, Thespis semble ne plus avoir été joué avant 1953, bien qu'une tentative de «reconstruction» dans les années 1940 ait été découverte. Tillett et Spencer, qui ont redécouvert la musique du ballet, identifient une vingtaine de reconstructions distinctes de Thespis entre 1953 et 2002. Environ la moitié d'entre elles utilisent de la musique empruntée à d'autres œuvres de Sullivan; les autres utilisent une nouvelle musique pour tout, à l’exception des chansons dont on a encore la partition, et certains-même re-composent aussi ces chansons-là. Aucune version n'a été véritablement mémorable.
L’historien du théâtre Terence Rees a développé une version du livret qui cherche à corriger les nombreuses erreurs du livret «survivant». Rees a aussi réalisé une version, basée sur le livret, qui comprenait quelques paroles interpolées d'opéras de Gilbert (mais pas de Sullivan) dans le but de remplacer les chansons manquantes. Une partition a été fournie par Garth Morton, basée sur la musique d’opéras moins connus de Sullivan, et cette version a été enregistrée. Une autre version avec une partition de Bruce Montgomery a été montée à plusieurs reprises, notamment en 2000 à l’International Gilbert and Sullivan Festival. En 1996, une version avec une nouvelle musique de Quade Winter a été produite par l’Ohio Light Opera.
Résumé: Les dieux de l'Olympe sont vieux et fatigués et décident de quitter le Mont Olympe et de prendre des vacances. Pendant ce temps, une troupe d'acteurs itinérants prennent leur place.
Création: 26/12/1871 - Gaiety Theatre (Londres) - 63 représ.
Musique: Arthur Sullivan • Paroles: Livret: W.S. Gilbert • Production originale: 12 versions mentionnées
Dispo: Résumé Synopsis Génèse Liste chansons
La deuxième collaboration de Gilbert et Sullivan, qui est aussi leur premier "triomphe" et leur seul opéra-comique en un acte.
Genèse: Before Trial by Jury, W. S. Gilbert and Arthur Sullivan had collaborated on one previous opera, Thespis; or, The Gods Grown Old, in 1871. Although reasonably successful, it was a Christmas entertainment, and such works were not expected to endure. Between Thespis and Trial by Jury, Gilbert and Sullivan did not collaborate on any further operas, and each man separately produced works that further built his reputation in his own field. Gilbert wrote several short stories, edited the second volume of his comic Bab Ballads, and created a dozen theatrical works, including Happy Arcadia in 1872; The Wicked World, The Happy Land and The Realm of Joy in 1873; Charity, Topsyturveydom and Sweethearts in 1874. At the same time, Sullivan wrote various pieces of religious music, including the Festival Te Deum (1872) and an oratorio, The Light of the World (1873), and edited Church Hymns, with Tunes (1874), which included 45 of his own hymns and arrangements. Two of his most famous hymn tunes from this period are settings of "Onward, Christian Soldiers" and "Nearer, my God, to Thee" (both in 1872). He also wrote a suite of incidental music to The Merry Wives of Windsor (1874) and many parlour ballads and other songs, including three in 1874–75 with words by Gilbert: "The Distant Shore", "Sweethearts" (inspired by Gilbert's play) and "The Love that Loves Me Not".
Genesis of the operaThe genesis of Trial by Jury was in 1868, when Gilbert wrote a single-page illustrated comic piece for the magazine Fun entitled Trial by Jury: An Operetta. Drawing on Gilbert's training and brief practice as a barrister, it detailed a "breach of promise" trial going awry, in the process spoofing the law, lawyers and the legal system. (In the Victorian era, a man could be required to pay compensation should he fail to marry a woman to whom he was engaged.) The outline of this story was followed in the later opera, and two of its numbers appeared in nearly their final form in Fun. The skit, however, ended abruptly: the moment the attractive plaintiff stepped into the witness box, the judge leapt into her arms and vowed to marry her, whereas in the opera, the case is allowed to proceed further before this conclusion is reached. In 1873, the opera manager and composer Carl Rosa asked Gilbert for a piece to use as part of a season of English opera that Rosa planned to present at the Drury Lane Theatre; Rosa was to write or commission the music. Gilbert expanded Trial into a one-act libretto. Rosa's wife, Euphrosyne Parepa-Rosa, a childhood friend of Gilbert's, died after an illness in 1874, and Rosa dropped the project. Later in the same year, Gilbert offered the libretto to the impresario Richard D'Oyly Carte, but Carte knew of no composer available to set it to music. Meanwhile, Sullivan may have been considering a return to light opera: Cox and Box, his first comic opera, had received a London revival (co-starring his brother, Fred Sullivan) in September 1874. In November, Sullivan travelled to Paris and contacted Albert Millaud, one of the librettists for Jacques Offenbach's operettas. However, he returned to London empty-handed and worked on incidental music for the Gaiety Theatre's production of The Merry Wives of Windsor. By early 1875, Carte was managing Selina Dolaro's Royalty Theatre, and he needed a short opera to be played as an afterpiece to Offenbach's La Périchole, which was to open on 30 January (with Fred Sullivan in the cast), in which Dolaro starred. Carte had asked Sullivan to compose something for the theatre and advertised in The Times in late January: "In Preparation, a New Comic Opera composed expressly for this theatre by Mr. Arthur Sullivan in which Madame Dolaro and Nellie Bromley will appear." But around the same time, Carte also remembered Gilbert's Trial by Jury and knew that Gilbert had worked with Sullivan to create Thespis. He suggested to Gilbert that Sullivan was the man to write the music for Trial. Gilbert finally called on Sullivan and read the libretto to him on 20 February 1875. Sullivan was enthusiastic, later recalling, "[Gilbert] read it through ... in the manner of a man considerably disappointed with what he had written. As soon as he had come to the last word, he closed up the manuscript violently, apparently unconscious of the fact that he had achieved his purpose so far as I was concerned, inasmuch as I was screaming with laughter the whole time." Trial by Jury, described as "A Novel and Original Dramatic Cantata" in the original promotional material, was composed and rehearsed in a matter of weeks.
Production and aftermathThe result of Gilbert and Sullivan's collaboration was a witty, tuneful and very "English" piece, in contrast to the bawdy burlesques and adaptations of French operettas that dominated the London musical stage at that time. A programme cover for the Royalty Theatre printed in black and blue with engraved illustrations and decorations. There is a large illustration of the main attraction, La Périchole, but caricatures of Gilbert and Sullivan as cherubs frame a portrait of Selina Dolaro. Initially, Trial by Jury, which runs only 30 minutes or so, was played last on a triple bill, on which the main attraction, La Périchole (starring Dolaro as the title character, Fred Sullivan as Don Andres and Walter H. Fisher as Piquillo), was preceded by the one-act farce Cryptoconchoidsyphonostomata. The latter was immediately replaced by a series of other curtain raisers. The composer conducted the first night's performance, and the theatre's music director, B. Simmons, conducted thereafter. The composer's brother, Fred Sullivan, starred as the Learned Judge, with Nellie Bromley as the Plaintiff. One of the choristers in Trial by Jury, W. S. Penley, was promoted in November 1875 to the small part of the Foreman of the Jury and made a strong impact on audiences with his amusing facial expressions and gestures. In March 1876, he temporarily replaced Fred Sullivan as the Judge, when Fred's health declined from tuberculosis. With this start, Penley went on to a successful career as comic actor, culminating with the lead role in the record-breaking original production of Charley's Aunt. Fred Sullivan died in January 1877. Jacques Offenbach's works were then at the height of their popularity in Britain, but Trial by Jury proved even more popular than La Périchole, becoming an unexpected hit. Trial by Jury drew crowds and continued to run after La Périchole closed. While the Royalty Theatre closed for the summer in 1875, Dolaro immediately took Trial on tour in England and Ireland. The piece resumed at the Royalty later in 1875 and was revived for additional London seasons in 1876 at the Opera Comique and in 1877 at the Strand Theatre. Trial by Jury soon became the most desirable supporting piece for any London production, and, outside London, the major British theatrical touring companies had added it to their repertoire by about 1877. The original production was given a world tour by the Opera Comique's assistant manager Emily Soldene, which travelled as far as Australia. Unauthorised "pirate" productions quickly sprang up in America, taking advantage of the fact that American courts did not enforce foreign copyrights. It also became popular as part of the Victorian tradition of "benefit concerts", where the theatrical community came together to raise money for actors and actresses down on their luck or retiring. The D'Oyly Carte Opera Company continued to play the work for a century, licensing the piece to amateur and foreign professional companies, such as the J. C. Williamson Gilbert and Sullivan Opera Company. Since the copyrights to Gilbert and Sullivan works ran out in 1961, the piece has been available to theatre companies around the world free of royalties. The work's enduring popularity since 1875 makes it, according to theatrical scholar Kurt Gänzl, "probably the most successful British one-act operetta of all time". The success of Trial by Jury spurred several attempts to reunite Gilbert and Sullivan, but difficulties arose. Plans for a collaboration for Carl Rosa in 1875 fell through because Gilbert was too busy with other projects, and an attempted Christmas 1875 revival of Thespis by Richard D'Oyly Carte failed when the financiers backed out. Gilbert and Sullivan continued their separate careers, though both continued writing light opera, among other projects: Sullivan's next light opera, The Zoo, opened while Trial by Jury was still playing, in June 1875; and Gilbert's Eyes and No Eyes premiered a month later, followed by Princess Toto in 1876. Gilbert and Sullivan were not reunited until The Sorcerer in 1877.
Résumé: Edwin a demandé Angelina en mariage, mais aujourd'hui, il ne veut plus l'épouser. Elle l'attaque en justice pour "rupture de promesse". Nous allons donc assister à ce procès où chacun des deux jeunes va tout faire pour influer sur le niveau des dommages et intérêts. Et où surtout où va se rendre compte à quel point un procès peut ne pas être équitable…
Création: 25/3/1875 - Royalty Theatre (Londres) - 131 représ.
Musique: Arthur Sullivan • Paroles: Livret: W.S. Gilbert • Production originale: 2 versions mentionnées
Dispo: Résumé Synopsis Génèse
Après le succès précoce et retentissant de leur opéra en un acte "Trial By Jury" en 1875, Gilbert et Sullivan, et leur producteur Richard D'Oyly Carte, décidèrent de produire une œuvre plus longue. Gilbert a retravaillé et allongé un de ses écrits antérieurs (An Elixir of Love) basé sur un thème d'opéra pour créer une intrigue autour d'un philtre d'amour magique qui ferait tomber tout le monde amoureux, mais du mauvais partenaire. "The Sorcerer" a été créé à l'Opéra Comique de Londres, un charmant petit théâtre du Strand, le 17 novembre 1877. La série originale de la pièce a duré 175 représentations, un succès suffisant pour encourager Gilbert & Sullivan à continuer à collaborer, ce qui a conduit à leur pièce suivante, le HMS Pinafore.
Genèse: In 1871, W. S. Gilbert and Arthur Sullivan had written Thespis, an extravaganza for the Gaiety Theatre's holiday season that did not lead immediately to any further collaboration. Three years later, in 1875, talent agent and producer Richard D'Oyly Carte was managing the Royalty Theatre, and he needed a short opera to be played as an afterpiece to Jacques Offenbach's La Périchole. Carte was able to bring Gilbert and Sullivan together again to write the one-act piece, called Trial by Jury, which became a surprise hit. The piece was witty, tuneful and very "English", in contrast to the bawdy burlesques and adaptations of French operettas that dominated the London musical stage at that time. Trial by Jury proved even more popular than La Périchole, becoming an unexpected hit, touring extensively and enjoying revivals and a world tour. After the success of Trial by Jury, several producers attempted to reunite Gilbert and Sullivan, but difficulties arose. Plans for a collaboration for Carl Rosa in 1875 fell through because Gilbert was too busy with other projects, and an attempted Christmas 1875 revival of Thespis by Richard D'Oyly Carte failed when the financiers backed out. Gilbert and Sullivan continued their separate careers, though both continued writing light opera. Finally, in 1877, Carte organised a syndicate of four financiers and formed the Comedy Opera Company, capable of producing a full-length work. By July 1877, Gilbert and Sullivan were under contract to produce a two-act opera. Gilbert expanded on his own short story that he had written the previous year for The Graphic, "An Elixir of Love," creating a plot about a magic love potion that – as often occurs in opera – causes everyone to fall in love with the wrong partner. Now backed by a company dedicated to their work, Gilbert, Sullivan and Carte were able to select their own cast, instead of using the players under contract to the theatre where the work was produced, as had been the case with their earlier works. They chose talented actors, most of whom were not well-known stars; and so did not command high fees, and whom they felt they could mould to their own style. Then, they tailored their work to the particular abilities of these performers. Carte approached Mrs Howard Paul to play the role of Lady Sangazure in the new opera. Mr and Mrs Howard Paul had operated a small touring company booked by Carte's agency for many years, but the couple had recently separated. She conditioned her acceptance of the part on the casting of her 24-year-old protege, Rutland Barrington. When Barrington auditioned before W. S. Gilbert, the young actor questioned his own suitability for comic opera, but Gilbert, who required that his actors play their sometimes-absurd lines in all earnestness, explained the casting choice: "He's a staid, solid swine, and that's what I want." Barrington was given the role of Dr Daly, the vicar, which was his first starring role on the London stage. For the character role of Mrs. Partlet, they chose Harriett Everard, an actress who had worked with Gilbert before. Carte's agency supplied additional singers, including Alice May (Aline), Giulia Warwick (Constance), and Richard Temple (Sir Marmaduke). Finally, in early November 1877, the last role, that of the title character, John Wellington Wells, was filled by comedian George Grossmith. Grossmith had appeared in charity performances of Trial by Jury, where both Sullivan and Gilbert had seen him (indeed, Gilbert had directed one such performance, in which Grossmith played the judge), and Gilbert had earlier commented favourably on his performance in Tom Robertson's Society at the Gallery of Illustration. After singing for Sullivan, upon meeting Gilbert, Grossmith wondered aloud if the role shouldn't be played by "a fine man with a fine voice". Gilbert replied, "No, that is just what we don't want." The Sorcerer was not the only piece on which either Gilbert or Sullivan were working at that time. Gilbert was completing Engaged, a "farcical comedy", which opened on 3 October 1877. He also was sorting out the problems with The Ne'er-do-Weel, a piece he wrote for Edward Sothern. Meanwhile, Sullivan was writing the incidental music to Henry VIII; only after its premiere on 28 August did he begin working on The Sorcerer. The opening was originally scheduled for 1 November 1877; however, the first rehearsals took place on 27 October, and the part of J. W. Wells was filled only by that time. The Sorcerer finally opened at Opera Comique on 17 November 1877.
Résumé: Le riche mais peu intelligent Alexis a une vision: la joie du mariage fera disparaître tout malheur terrestre. Appliquant à lui-même ce qu’il a prêché, Alexis s'est récemment fiancé à la belle Aline. Mais lors de sa cérémonie de mariage, il veut généraliser à tous sa conviction: apporter la joie du mariage à toute la ville. Pour y parvenir, il invite le patron de J.W. Wells & Co., Family Sorcerers, à préparer un philtre d'amour. Cela a un effet immédiat: tout le monde dans le village tombe amoureux de la première personne qu'il voit. Mais cela aboutit à créer des couples comiquement dépareillés. En fin de compte, Wells doit sacrifier sa vie pour briser le charme.
Création: 17/11/1877 - Opera Comique (Londres) - 175 représ.
Musique: Arthur Sullivan • Paroles: W.S. Gilbert • Livret: W.S. Gilbert • Production originale: 5 versions mentionnées
Dispo: Résumé Synopsis Génèse Liste chansons
La quatrième collaboration entre Gilbert & Sullivan fut leur premier grand succès: "HMS Pinafore" (ou "La fille qui aimait un marin"). Il a ouvert ses portes le 25 mai 1878 à l'Opéra Comique où il s'est joué pour une très longue série de 571 représentations. Des tournées ont répandu sa popularité dans toute la Grande-Bretagne et en Amérique, de nombreuses compagnies ont "piraté" l'œuvre en mettant en scène des productions sans le consentement des auteurs et sans leur payer de droits d'auteurs. Gilbert, Sullivan et Carte ont tenté de battre les "pirates" en montant leur propre production à New York. Aujourd'hui, "HMS Pinafore" reste l'un des opéras de Gilbert et Sullivan les plus populaires.
Genèse: Pinafore ouvrit le 25 mai 1878 à l'Opera Comique, sous la direction de Sullivan, devant un public enthousiaste. Cependant, la pièce souffrit rapidement de faibles ventes de ticket, imputées en général à une vague de chaud qui rendit les lieux particulièrement inconfortables, puisqu'ils étaient éclairés au gaz et mal ventilés. L'historien Michael Ainger remet cette explication en question, au moins partiellement, en expliquant que les vagues de chauds de l'été 1878 étaient brèves et passagères. Quoi qu'il en soit, Sullivan écrit à sa mère à la mi-août qu'une météo plus douce était arrivée, ce qui était bon pour la représentation. Dans le même temps, les quatre partenaires de la société Comedy-Opera perdirent confiance dans la viabilité de l'opéra et affichèrent des avis de fermeture,. Carte fit connaître la pièce au public en présentant un concert lors de la matinée du 6 juillet 1878 dans l'imposant Crystal Palace. À la fin août 1878, Sullivan utilisa l'une des musiques de Pinafore, arrangée par son assistant Hamilton Clarke, durant plusieurs concerts-promenades à succès à Covent Garden, qui suscitèrent l'intérêt du public et stimulèrent les ventes de ticket. En septembre, Pinafore jouait devant des salles combles à l'Opera Comique. Les partitions au piano se vendirent à 10 000 exemplaires et Carte envoya bientôt deux troupes supplémentaires en tournée dans les provinces. Carte, Gilbert et Sullivan avaient à présent les moyens financiers de produire eux-mêmes les spectacles, sans recourir à des bailleurs de fond. Carte persuada l'auteur et le composa qu'un partenariat en affaire entre eux trois serait à leur avantage, et ils tramèrent un plan afin de se séparer des directeurs de la société Comedy-Opera. Le contrat entre Gilbert et Sullivan et la société donnait à cette dernière les droits de présenter Pinafore pour une série. L'Opera Comique fut obligé de fermer pour réparation dans les canalisations et les égouts de Noël 1878 à la fin de janvier 1879 : Gilbert, Sullivan et Carte considérèrent que cette fermeture terminait la série de représentations et, par conséquent, mirent fin aux droits de la société. Carte fut particulièrement clair en prenant un congé personnel de six mois vis-à-vis du théâtre, commençant le 1er février, la date de la réouverture lorsque Pinafore revint à l'affiche. À la fin des six mois, Carte prévoyaient d'annoncer à la société Comedy-Opera que ses droits sur la pièce et le théâtre étaient terminés. Entre temps, de nombreuses versions « pirates » du Pinafore commencèrent à être joués aux États-Unis avec un grand succès, commençant avec une production à Boston qui ouvrit le 25 novembre 1878. Pinafore devint une source de citations dans les discussions des deux côtés de l'Atlantique, tels que : "Quoi, jamais ?" "Non, jamais !" "Quoi, jamais ?" "Oh, pratiquement jamais !" Après la reprise des opérations à l'Opera Comique en février 1879, l'opéra recommença également ses tournées en avril, avec deux troupes s'entrecroisant dans les provinces britanniques, Sir Joseph étant interprété dans une troupe par Richard Mansfield, et dans l'autre par W. S. Penley. Espérant prendre sa part dans les profits faits aux États-Unis avec Pinafore, Carte partit en juin pour New York afin de mettre en place une production « authentique » qui serait préparée personnellement par l'auteur et le compositeur. Il s'organisa pour louer un théâtre et fit passer des auditions pour les membres du chœur de la production américaine de Pinafore, ainsi que d'un nouvel opéra de Gilbert et Sullivan dont la première devait avoir lieu à New York, et également pour des tournées de The Sorcerer. Sullivan, ainsi que planifié avec Carte et Gilbert, notifia les partenaires de la société Comedy-Opera au début de juillet 1879 que lui, Gilbert et Carte, ne renouvelleront pas le contrat pour produire Pinafore avec la société, et qu'il retirerait sa muqieu de la société le 31 juillet. En retour, la société fit savoir qu'il comptait produire Pinafore à un autre théâtre et entreprit une action en justice. De plus, elle offrit à la troupe de Londres et aux autres plus d'argent pour jouer dans leur production. Bien que quelques choristes acceptèrent l'offre, le seul interprète de premier plan qui s'y joignit fut Mr Dymott. La société engagea l'Imperial Theatre mais n'avait pas de décors : ils envoyèrent donc, le 31 juillet, une bande de voyous pour s'emparer des décors et des accessoires pendant le deuxième acte de la représentation du soir à l'Opera Comique. Gilbert n'était pas là, et Sullivan se remettait d'une opération de calcul rénal. Les machinistes et d'autres membres de l'équipe réussirent à éviter ces attaquants en coulisse et à protéger les décors, bien que le directeur Richard Barker et d'autres furent blessés. L'équipe continua la représentation jusqu'à ce que quelqu'un hurle « au feu ! » George Grossmith, jouant Sir Joseph, vint devant le rideau pour calmer le public paniqué. La police arriva pour restaurer l'ordre et la pièce put reprendre. Gilbert porta plainte pour empêcher la société Comedy-Opera de mettre en scène la production rivale du H.M.S. Pinafore. La cour autorisa la production à continuer à l'Imperial, où Pauline Rita incarna Josephine, commençant le 1er août 1879. La production fut transférée à l'Olympic Theatre en septembre, mais elle n'était pas aussi populaire que la production de D'Oyly Carte et fut retirée après 91 représentations. Le problème juridique fut éventuellement réglé devant la cour lorsqu'un juge trancha en faveur de Carte, deux ans plus tard.
Résumé: L'histoire se déroule à bord du navire britannique HMS Pinafore. Josephine, la fille du capitaine, est amoureuse d'un marin de classe populaire, Ralph Rackstraw, alors que son père a l'intention qu'elle épouse sir Joseph Porter, ministre de la Marine. Elle se conforme tout d'abord aux souhaits de son père, mais le plaidoyer de sir Joseph sur l'égalité entre les hommes encourage Ralph et Josephine à remettre en question le poids des couches sociales. Ils se déclarèrent leur amour puis finissent par planifier de s'enfuir pour se marier. Le capitaine découvre ce plan mais, comme dans de nombreux opéras de Gilbert et Sullivan, une révélation surprise renverse le cours des choses vers la fin de l'histoire.
Création: 25/5/1878 - Opera Comique (Londres) - représ.
Musique: Arthur Sullivan • Paroles: W.S. Gilbert • Livret: W.S. Gilbert • Production originale: 7 versions mentionnées
Dispo: Résumé Synopsis Génèse Liste chansons
Après le succès sensationnel de "HMS Pinafore", de nombreuses compagnies de spectacle américaines avaient présenté des versions non autorisées de cet opéra. Gilbert, Sullivan et Carte ont décidé d'éviter que cela ne se reproduiseavec leur nouvelle création, "Les Pirates de Penzance", en en présentant les versions officielles simultanément en Angleterre et en Amérique. L'opéra fut créé le 31 décembre 1879 au Fifth Avenue Theatre à New York sous la direction de Sullivan, mais une seule représentation avait été donnée la veille au Royal Bijou Theatre, Paignton, Angleterre, pour garantir le droit d'auteur britannique. Enfin, l'opéra a ouvert ses portes le 3 avril 1880, à l'Opéra Comique de Londres, où il s'est joué pour 363 représentations, ayant connu un succès parallèle pendant plus de trois mois à New York.
Genèse: The Pirates of Penzance was the only Gilbert and Sullivan opera to have its official premiere in the United States. At the time, American law offered no copyright protection to foreigners. After their previous opera, H.M.S. Pinafore, was a hit in London, over a hundred American companies quickly mounted unauthorised productions, often taking considerable liberties with the text and paying no royalties to the creators. Gilbert and Sullivan hoped to forestall further "copyright piracy" by mounting the first production of their next opera in America, before others could copy it, and by delaying publication of the score and libretto. They succeeded in keeping for themselves the direct profits of the first production of the opera by opening the production themselves on Broadway, prior to the London production. They also operated U.S. touring companies. However, Gilbert, Sullivan, and their producer, Richard D'Oyly Carte, failed in their efforts over the next decade to control the American performance copyrights over their operas. Genesis After the success of Pinafore, Gilbert was eager to get started on the next opera, and he began working on the libretto in December 1878. He re-used several elements of his 1870 one-act piece, Our Island Home, which had introduced a pirate "chief", Captain Bang. Bang was mistakenly apprenticed to a pirate band as a child by his deaf nursemaid. Also, Bang, like Frederic, had never seen a woman before and was affected by a keen sense of duty, as an apprenticed pirate, until the passage of his twenty-first birthday freed him from his articles of indenture. George Bernard Shaw wrote that Gilbert, who had earlier adapted Offenbach's Les brigands, drew on that work also for his new libretto. Gilbert and Sullivan also inserted into Act II an idea they first considered for a one-act opera parody in 1876 about burglars meeting police, and their conflict escaping the notice of the father of a large family of girls. The composition of the music for Pirates was unusual, in that Sullivan wrote the music for the acts in reverse, intending to bring the completed Act II with him to New York, with Act I existing only in sketches. When he arrived in New York, however, he found that he had left the sketches behind, and he had to reconstruct the first act from memory. Gilbert told a correspondent many years later that Sullivan was unable to recall his setting of the entrance of the women's chorus, so they substituted the chorus "Climbing over rocky mountain" from their earlier opera, Thespis. Sullivan's manuscript for Pirates contains pages removed from a Thespis score, with the vocal parts altered from their original context as a four-part chorus. Some scholars (e.g. Tillett and Spencer, 2000) have offered evidence that Gilbert and Sullivan had planned all along to re-use "Climbing over rocky mountain," and perhaps other parts of Thespis, noting that the presence of the unpublished Thespis score in New York, when there were no plans to revive it, might not have been accidental. On 10 December 1879, Sullivan wrote a letter to his mother about the new opera, upon which he was hard at work in New York. "I think it will be a great success, for it is exquisitely funny, and the music is strikingly tuneful and catching." The work's title is a multi-layered joke. On the one hand, Penzance was a docile seaside resort in 1879, and not the place where one would expect to encounter pirates. On the other hand, the title was also a jab at the theatrical pirates who had staged unlicensed productions of H.M.S. Pinafore in America. To secure British copyright, a D'Oyly Carte touring company gave a perfunctory performance of Pirates the afternoon before the New York premiere, at the Royal Bijou Theatre in Paignton, Devon, organised by Helen Lenoir (who would later marry Richard D'Oyly Carte). The cast, which was performing Pinafore in the evenings in Torquay, travelled to nearby Paignton for the matinee, where they read their parts from scripts carried onto the stage, making do with whatever costumes they had on hand. Production and aftermath Pirates opened on 31 December 1879 in New York and was an immediate hit. On 2 January 1880, Sullivan wrote, in another letter to his mother from New York, "The libretto is ingenious, clever, wonderfully funny in parts, and sometimes brilliant in dialogue – beautifully written for music, as is all Gilbert does. ... The music is infinitely superior in every way to the Pinafore – 'tunier' and more developed, of a higher class altogether. I think that in time it will be very popular." Sullivan's prediction was correct. After a strong run in New York and several American tours, Pirates opened in London on 3 April 1880, running for 363 performances there. It remains one of the most popular G&S works. The critics' notices were generally excellent in both New York and London. The character of Major-General Stanley was widely taken to be a caricature of the popular general Sir Garnet Wolseley. The biographer Michael Ainger, however, doubts that Gilbert intended a caricature of Wolseley, identifying instead General Henry Turner, uncle of Gilbert's wife, as the pattern for the "modern Major-General". Gilbert disliked Turner, who, unlike the progressive Wolseley, was of the old school of officers. Nevertheless, in the original London production, George Grossmith imitated Wolseley's mannerisms and appearance, particularly his large moustache, and the audience recognised the allusion. Wolseley himself, according to his biographer, took no offence at the caricature and sometimes sang "I am the very model of a modern Major-General" for the private amusement of his family and friends.
Résumé: Frederic, who, having completed his 21st year, is released from his apprenticeship to a band of tender-hearted pirates. He meets Mabel, the daughter of Major-General Stanley, and the two young people fall instantly in love. Frederic finds out, however, that he was born on 29 February, and so, technically, he only has a birthday each leap year. His apprenticeship indentures state that he remains apprenticed to the pirates until his 21st birthday, and so he must serve for another 63 years. Bound by his own sense of duty, Frederic's only solace is that Mabel agrees to wait for him faithfully
Création: 31/12/1879 - Fifth Avenue Theatre (Broadway) - représ.
Musique: Arthur Sullivan • Paroles: Livret: W.S. Gilbert • Production originale: 2 versions mentionnées
Dispo: Résumé Synopsis Génèse
La sixième collaboration de Gilbert & Sullivan fut "Patience". Le spectacle a été créé le 23 avril 1881 à l'Opéra Comique et a tenu l'affiche 578 représentations avant un transfert le 10 octobre 1881 dans le nouveau théâtre de D'Oyly Carte, le Savoy, premier théâtre au monde entièrement éclairé par des lumières électriques. "Patience" fait la satire de l'engouement esthétique des années 1870 et 80, lorsque la production de poètes, compositeurs, peintres et designers de toutes sortes fut totalement prolifique - mais, selon certains, fut surtout creuse et complaisante. Ce mouvement artistique était si populaire, et aussi si facile à ridiculiser comme une mode sans signification, qu'il a fait de "Patience" un grand succès. Le lien avec cette actualité ponctuelle de l'histoire peut rendre "Patience" un peu moins accessible à certains publics modernes, et les fans de Gilbert & Sullivan ont tendance à avoir des sentiments excessivements tranchés - positifs ou négatifs - à propos de "Patience".
Genèse: The opera is a satire on the aesthetic movement of the 1870s and '80s in England, part of the 19th-century European movement that emphasised aesthetic values over moral or social themes in literature, fine art, the decorative arts, and interior design. Called "Art for Art's Sake", the movement valued its ideals of beauty above any pragmatic concerns. Although the output of poets, painters and designers was prolific, some argued that the movement's art, poetry and fashion was empty and self-indulgent. That the movement was so popular and also so easy to ridicule as a meaningless fad helped make Patience a big hit. The same factors made a hit out of The Colonel, a play by F. C. Burnand based partly on the satiric cartoons of George du Maurier in Punch magazine. The Colonel beat Patience to the stage by several weeks, but Patience outran Burnand's play. According to Burnand's 1904 memoir, Sullivan's friend the composer Frederic Clay leaked to Burnand the information that Gilbert and Sullivan were working on an "æsthetic subject", and so Burnand raced to produce The Colonel before Patience opened. Modern productions of Patience have sometimes updated the setting of the opera to an analogous era such as the hippie 1960s, making a flower-child poet the rival of a beat poet. The two poets in the opera are given to reciting their own verses aloud, principally to the admiring chorus of rapturous maidens. The style of poetry Bunthorne declaims strongly contrasts with Grosvenor's. The former's, emphatic and obscure, bears a marked resemblance to Swinburne's poetry in its structure, style and heavy use of alliteration. The latter's "idyllic" poetry, simpler and pastoral, echoes elements of Coventry Patmore and William Morris. Gilbert scholar Andrew Crowther comments, "Bunthorne was the creature of Gilbert's brain, not just a caricature of particular Aesthetes, but an original character in his own right." The makeup and costume adopted by the first Bunthorne, George Grossmith, used Swinburne's velvet jacket, the painter James McNeill Whistler's hairstyle and monocle, and knee-breeches like those worn by Oscar Wilde and others. According to Gilbert's biographer Edith Browne, the title character, Patience, was made up and costumed to resemble the subject of a Luke Fildes painting. Patience was not the first satire of the aesthetic movement played by Richard D'Oyly Carte's company at the Opera Comique. Grossmith himself had written a sketch in 1876 called Cups and Saucers that was revived as a companion piece to H.M.S. Pinafore in 1878, which was a satire of the blue pottery craze. A popular misconception holds that the central character of Bunthorne, a "Fleshly Poet," was intended to satirise Oscar Wilde, but this identification is retrospective. According to some authorities, Bunthorne is inspired partly by the poets Algernon Charles Swinburne and Dante Gabriel Rossetti, who were considerably more famous than Wilde in early 1881 before Wilde published his first volume of poetry. Rossetti had been attacked for immorality by Robert Buchanan (under the pseudonym "Thomas Maitland") in an article called "The Fleshly School of Poetry", published in The Contemporary Review for October 1871, a decade before Patience. Nonetheless, Wilde's biographer Richard Ellmann suggests that Wilde is a partial model for both Bunthorne and his rival Grosvenor. Carte, the producer of Patience, was also Wilde's booking manager in 1881 as the poet's popularity took off. In 1882, after the New York production of Patience opened, Gilbert, Sullivan and Carte sent Wilde on a US lecture tour, with his green carnation and knee-breeches, to explain the English aesthetic movement, intending to help popularise the show's American touring productions. Although a satire of the aesthetic movement is dated today, fads and hero-worship are evergreen, and "Gilbert’s pen was rarely sharper than when he invented Reginald Bunthorne". Gilbert originally conceived Patience as a tale of rivalry between two curates and of the doting ladies who attended upon them. The plot and even some of the dialogue were lifted straight out of Gilbert's Bab Ballad "The Rival Curates." While writing the libretto, however, Gilbert took note of the criticism he had received for his very mild satire of a clergyman in The Sorcerer, and looked about for an alternative pair of rivals. Some remnants of the Bab Ballad version do survive in the final text of Patience. Lady Jane advises Bunthorne to tell Grosvenor: "Your style is much too sanctified – your cut is too canonical!" Later, Grosvenor agrees to change his lifestyle by saying, "I do it on compulsion!" – the very words used by the Reverend Hopley Porter in the Bab Ballad. Gilbert's selection of aesthetic poet rivals proved to be a fertile subject for topsy-turvy treatment. He both mocks and joins in Buchanan's criticism of what the latter calls the poetic "affectations" of the "fleshly school" – their use of archaic terminology, archaic rhymes, the refrain, and especially their "habit of accenting the last syllable in words which in ordinary speech are accented on the penultimate." All of these poetic devices or "mediaevalism's affectations", as Bunthorne calls them, are parodied in Patience. For example, accenting the last syllable of "lily" and rhyming it with "die" parodies two of these devices at once. On 10 October 1881, during its original run, Patience transferred to the new Savoy Theatre, the first public building in the world lit entirely by electric light. Carte explained why he had introduced electric light: "The greatest drawbacks to the enjoyment of the theatrical performances are, undoubtedly, the foul air and heat which pervade all theatres. As everyone knows, each gas-burner consumes as much oxygen as many people, and causes great heat beside. The incandescent lamps consume no oxygen, and cause no perceptible heat." When the electrical system was ready for full operation, in December 1881, Carte stepped on stage to demonstrate the safety of the new technology by breaking a glowing lightbulb before the audience.
Résumé: Romancier, Billy Magee fait un pari avec son riche ami qu’il peut écrire un roman en 24 heures. On lui remet une clé de l’auberge Baldpate, et on lui dit que c’est la seule (il s’avère qu’il y a sept personnes différentes qui revendiquent la propriété de la prétendue clé unique). À l’auberge, il déjoue un complot concernant un groupe de criminels, et juste avant minuit, apprend que l’intrigue entière est un canular (inventée par son riche ami pour l’empêcher de terminer le roman).
Création: 23/4/1881 - Opera Comique (Londres) - 578 représ.
Musique: Arthur Sullivan • Paroles: W.S. Gilbert • Livret: W.S. Gilbert • Production originale: 5 versions mentionnées
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"Iolanthe" a ouvert au Savoy Theatre le 25 novembre 1882, trois soirs après la dernière représentation de "Patience" au même théâtre et est resté à l'affiche pour 398 représentations. Gilbert avait déjà fait des coups de feu à l’aristocratie, mais dans ce "opéra de fées", la Chambre des Lords est ridiculisée comme un bastion de l’inefficace, privilégié et débile. Le système des partis politiques et d’autres institutions viennent aussi pour une dose de satire. Pourtant, à la fois auteur et compositeur a réussi à coucher la critique parmi ces rebondissements, aimables absurdités que tout est reçu comme bon amusement. Gilbert et Sullivan étaient tous deux à l’apogée de leur créativité en 1882, et beaucoup de gens estiment qu’Iolanthe, leur septième collaboration, est la plus parfaite de leurs collaborations.
Genèse: The opening night of Iolanthe was an occasion for what must have seemed a truly magical event in 1882. The Savoy Theatre was the first theatre in the world to be wired for electricity, and such stunning special effects as sparkling fairy wands were possible. Gilbert had targeted the aristocracy for satiric treatment before, but in this "fairy opera", the House of Lords is lampooned as a bastion of the ineffective, privileged and dim-witted. The political party system and other institutions also come in for a dose of satire. Among many potshots that Gilbert takes at lawyers in this opera, the Lord Chancellor sings that he will "work on a new and original plan" that the rule (which holds true in other professions, such as the military, the church and even the stage) that diligence, honesty, honour, and merit should lead to promotion "might apply to the bar". Throughout Iolanthe, however, both author and composer managed to couch the criticism among such bouncy, amiable absurdities that it is all received as good humour. In fact, Gilbert later refused to allow quotes from the piece to be used as part of the campaign to diminish the powers of the House of Lords. Although titled Iolanthe all along in Gilbert's plot book, for a time the piece was advertised as Perola and rehearsed under that name. According to an often-repeated fiction, Gilbert and Sullivan did not change the name to Iolanthe until just before the première. In fact, the title was advertised as Iolanthe as early as 13 November 1882 – eleven days before the opening – so the cast had at least that much time to learn the name. It is also clear that Sullivan's musical setting was written to match the cadence of the word "Iolanthe," and could only accommodate the word "Perola" by preceding it (awkwardly) with "O", "Come" or "Ah". A glittering crowd attended the first night in London, including Captain (later Captain Sir) Eyre Massey Shaw, head of the Metropolitan Fire Brigade, whom the Fairy Queen apostrophizes in the second act ("Oh, Captain Shaw/Type of true love kept under/Could thy brigade with cold cascade/Quench my great love, I wonder?"). On the first night, Alice Barnett as the Fairy Queen sang the verses directly to the Captain, to the great delight of the audience.
Résumé: L'intrigue se centre sur le personnage d'Iolanthe, une fée qui a été bannie du pays des fées parce qu'elle se marie avec un homme mortel, ce qui est interdit par la loi des fées. Son fils, Stréphon, est un pasteur arcadien qui veut se marier avec Phyllis, une pupille de la cour de la Chancellerie (Court of Chancery). Tous les membres de la chambre des Lords (House of Peers) veulent aussi se marier avec Phyllis. Quand Phyllis voit Strephon embrassant une jeune femme (ne sachant pas que c'est sa mère), elle se met en colère et crée une confrontation entre les pairs et les fées. La pièce satirise beaucoup des aspects du gouvernement, de la loi et de la société de Grande-Bretagne.
Création: 25/11/1882 - Savoy Theatre (Londres) - représ.
Musique: Arthur Sullivan • Paroles: W.S. Gilbert • Livret: W.S. Gilbert • Production originale: 2 versions mentionnées
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La huitième collaboration de Gilbert et Sullivan, "Princess Ida", ouvrit ses portes le 5 janvier 1884 au Savoy Theatre pour 246 représentations. Pour créer le livret, Gilbert s'est tourné vers une pièce qu’il avait écrite en 1870, intitulée "The Princess", et réutilisa une grande partie du dialogue de cette pièce. Il conserva sa structure en trois actes, mais il écrivit de nouvelles paroles pour Sullivan. Sullivan fournit une partie de la meilleure musique qu’il ait jamais écrite pour le Savoy. La pièce et l’opéra s’inspirent des personnages et des incidents du poème narratif en vers vierges de Tennyson, The Princess, publié en 1847.
GénèsePrincess Ida is based on Tennyson's serio-comic narrative poem of 1847, The Princess: A Medley. Gilbert had written a blank verse musical farce burlesquing the same material in 1870 called The Princess. He reused a good deal of the dialogue from this earlier play in the libretto of Princess Ida. He also retained Tennyson's blank verse style and the basic story line about a heroic princess who runs a women's college and the prince who loves her. He and his two friends infiltrate the college disguised as female students. Gilbert wrote entirely new lyrics for Princess Ida, since the lyrics to his 1870 farce were written to previously existing music by Offenbach, Rossini and others. Tennyson's poem was written, in part, in response to the founding of Queen's College, London, the first college of women's higher education, in 1847. When Gilbert wrote The Princess in 1870, women's higher education was still an innovative, even radical concept. Girton College, one of the constituent colleges of the University of Cambridge, was established in 1869. However, by the time Gilbert and Sullivan collaborated on Princess Ida in 1883, a women's college was a more established concept. Westfield College, the first college to open with the aim of educating women for University of London degrees, had opened in Hampstead in 1882. Thus, women's higher education was in the news in London, and Westfield is cited as a model for Gilbert's Castle Adamant. Increasingly viewing his work with Gilbert as unimportant, beneath his skills and repetitious, Sullivan had intended to resign from the partnership with Gilbert and Richard D'Oyly Carte after Iolanthe, but after a recent financial loss, he concluded that his financial needs required him to continue writing Savoy operas. Therefore, in February 1883, with Iolanthe still playing strongly at the Savoy Theatre, Gilbert and Sullivan signed a new five-year partnership agreement to create new operas for Carte upon six months' notice. He also gave his consent to Gilbert to continue with the adaptation of The Princess as the basis for their next opera. Later that spring, Sullivan was knighted by Queen Victoria and the honour was announced in May at the opening of the Royal College of Music. Although it was the operas with Gilbert that had earned him the broadest fame, the honour was conferred for his services to serious music. The musical establishment, and many critics, believed that Sullivan's knighthood should put an end to his career as a composer of comic opera – that a musical knight should not stoop below oratorio or grand opera. Having just signed the five-year agreement, Sullivan suddenly felt trapped. By the end of July 1883, Gilbert and Sullivan were revising drafts of the libretto for Ida. Sullivan finished some of the composition by early September when he had to begin preparations for his conducting duties at the triennial Leeds Festival, held in October. In late October, Sullivan turned his attentions back to Ida, and rehearsals began in November. Gilbert was also producing his one-act drama, Comedy and Tragedy, and keeping an eye on a revival of his Pygmalion and Galatea at the Lyceum Theatre by Mary Anderson's company. In mid-December, Sullivan bade farewell to his sister-in-law Charlotte, the widow of his brother Fred, who departed with her young family to America, never to return. Sullivan's oldest nephew, Herbert, stayed behind in England as his uncle's ward, and Sullivan threw himself into the task of orchestrating the score of Princess Ida. As he had done with Iolanthe, Sullivan wrote the overture himself, rather than assigning it to an assistant as he did in the case of most of his operas.
ProductionPrincess Ida is the only Gilbert and Sullivan work with dialogue entirely in blank verse and the only one of their works in three acts (and the longest opera to that date). The piece calls for a larger cast, and the soprano title role requires a more dramatic voice than the earlier works. The American star Lillian Russell was engaged to create the title role of Princess Ida, but Gilbert did not believe that she was dedicated enough, and when she missed a rehearsal, she was dismissed. The D'Oyly Carte Opera Company's usual female lead, Leonora Braham, a light lyric soprano, nevertheless moved up from the part of Lady Psyche to assume the title role. Rosina Brandram got her big break when Alice Barnett became ill and left the company for a time, taking the role of Lady Blanche and becoming the company's principal contralto. The previous Savoy opera, Iolanthe, closed after 398 performances on 1 January 1884, the same day that Sullivan composed the last of the musical numbers for Ida. Despite grueling rehearsals over the next few days, and suffering from exhaustion, Sullivan conducted the opening performance on 5 January 1884 and collapsed from exhaustion immediately afterwards. The reviewer for the Sunday Times wrote that the score of Ida was "the best in every way that Sir Arthur Sullivan has produced, apart from his serious works.... Humour is almost as strong a point with Sir Arthur... as with his clever collaborator...." The humour of the piece also drew the comment that Gilbert and Sullivan's work "has the great merit of putting everyone in a good temper." The praise for Sullivan's effort was unanimous, though Gilbert's work received some mixed notices.
AftermathSullivan's close friend, composer Frederic Clay, had suffered a serious stroke in early December 1883 that ended his career. Sullivan, reflecting on this, his own precarious health and his desire to devote himself to more serious music, informed Richard D'Oyly Carte on 29 January 1884 that he had determined "not to write any more 'Savoy' pieces." Sullivan fled the London winter to convalesce in Monte Carlo as seven provincial tours (one with a 17-year-old Henry Lytton in the chorus) and the U.S. production of Ida set out. As Princess Ida began to show signs of flagging early on, Carte sent notice, on 22 March 1884, to both Gilbert and Sullivan under the five-year contract, that a new opera would be required in six months' time. Sullivan replied that "it is impossible for me to do another piece of the character of those already written by Gilbert and myself." Gilbert was surprised to hear of Sullivan's hesitation and had started work on a new opera involving a plot in which people fell in love against their wills after taking a magic lozenge – a plot that Sullivan had previously rejected. Gilbert wrote to Sullivan asking him to reconsider, but the composer replied on 2 April that he had "come to the end of my tether" with the operas: “...I have been continually keeping down the music in order that not one [syllable] should be lost.... I should like to set a story of human interest & probability where the humorous words would come in a humorous (not serious) situation, & where, if the situation were a tender or dramatic one the words would be of similar character." Gilbert was much hurt, but Sullivan insisted that he could not set the "lozenge plot." In addition to the "improbability" of it, it was too similar to the plot of their 1877 opera, The Sorcerer, and was too complex a plot. Sullivan returned to London, and, as April wore on, Gilbert tried to rewrite his plot, but he could not satisfy Sullivan. The parties were at a stalemate, and Gilbert wrote, "And so ends a musical & literary association of seven years' standing – an association of exceptional reputation – an association unequalled in its monetary results, and hitherto undisturbed by a single jarring or discordant element." However, by 8 May 1884, Gilbert was ready to back down, writing, "...am I to understand that if I construct another plot in which no supernatural element occurs, you will undertake to set it? ... a consistent plot, free from anachronisms, constructed in perfect good faith & to the best of my ability." The stalemate was broken, and on 20 May, Gilbert sent Sullivan a sketch of the plot to The Mikado. A particularly hot summer in London did not help ticket sales for Princess Ida and forced Carte to close the theatre during the heat of August. The piece ran for a comparatively short 246 performances, and for the first time since 1877, the opera closed before the next Savoy opera was ready to open. Princess Ida was not revived in London until 1919. Some of these events are dramatised in the 1999 film Topsy-Turvy.
Résumé: La pièce raconte l'histoire d'une princesse qui fonde une université pour femmes qui enseigne que les femmes sont supérieures aux hommes et qu'elles devraient diriger. Le prince avec lequel elle a été mariée de force entre avec deux de ses amis dans l'université en se déguisant en femmes. Ils sont découverts, et une véritable guerre entre les deux sexes se prépare.
Création: 5/1/1884 - Savoy Theatre (Londres) - 246 représ.
Musique: Arthur Sullivan • Paroles: W.S. Gilbert • Livret: W.S. Gilbert • Production originale: 9 versions mentionnées
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"The Mikado" est la neuvième des quatorze collaborations de Gilbert et Sullivan et est l'une des plus jouées du duo avec "The Pirates of Penzance" et "H.M.S. Pinafore". La première représentation eut lieu le 14 mars 1885, à Londres, et se joua au Savoy Theatre pendant 672 représentations ce qui à l'époque, est la deuxième plus longue série de représentations d'une œuvre théâtrale musicale, et l'une des plus longues séries pour une œuvre théâtrale en général. Certains airs de cet opéra comme "Three Little Maids from School" ou "I've Got a Little List" demeurent extrêmement populaires de nos jours dans la culture anglo-saxonne et ont connu de nombreuses adaptations et parodies.
OriginesGilbert and Sullivan's opera immediately preceding The Mikado was Princess Ida (1884), which ran for nine months, a short duration by Savoy opera standards. When ticket sales for Princess Ida showed early signs of flagging, the impresario Richard D'Oyly Carte realised that, for the first time since 1877, no new Gilbert and Sullivan work would be ready when the old one closed. On 22 March 1884, Carte gave Gilbert and Sullivan contractual notice that a new opera would be required within six months. Sullivan's close friend, the conductor Frederic Clay, had suffered a serious stroke in December 1883 that effectively ended his career. Reflecting on this, on his own precarious health, and on his desire to devote himself to more serious music, Sullivan replied to Carte that "it is impossible for me to do another piece of the character of those already written by Gilbert and myself". Gilbert, who had already started work on a new libretto in which people fall in love against their wills after taking a magic lozenge, was surprised to hear of Sullivan's hesitation. He wrote to Sullivan asking him to reconsider, but the composer replied on 2 April 1884 that he had "come to the end of my tether" with the operas: “...I have been continually keeping down the music in order that not one [syllable] should be lost.... I should like to set a story of human interest & probability where the humorous words would come in a humorous (not serious) situation, & where, if the situation were a tender or dramatic one the words would be of similar character”. Gilbert wrote that Sullivan's letter caused him "considerable pain". Sullivan responded that he could not set the "lozenge plot", stating that it was too similar to the plot of their 1877 opera The Sorcerer. As April 1884 wore on, Gilbert tried to modify his plot, but he could not satisfy Sullivan. The parties were at a stalemate, and Gilbert wrote, "And so ends a musical & literary association of seven years' standing – an association of exceptional reputation – an association unequaled in its monetary results, and hitherto undisturbed by a single jarring or discordant element." But by 8 May 1884, Gilbert was ready to back down, writing: "am I to understand that if I construct another plot in which no supernatural element occurs, you will undertake to set it? ... a consistent plot, free from anachronisms, constructed in perfect good faith & to the best of my ability." The stalemate was broken, and on 20 May, Gilbert sent Sullivan a sketch of the plot to The Mikado. It would take another ten months for The Mikado to reach the stage. A revised version of The Sorcerer coupled with their one-act piece Trial by Jury (1875) played at the Savoy while Carte and their audiences awaited their next work. Gilbert eventually found a place for his "lozenge plot" in The Mountebanks, written with Alfred Cellier in 1892. In 1914, Cellier and Bridgeman first recorded the familiar story of how Gilbert found his inspiration: “ Gilbert, having determined to leave his own country alone for a while, sought elsewhere for a subject suitable to his peculiar humour. A trifling accident inspired him with an idea. One day an old Japanese sword that, for years, had been hanging on the wall of his study, fell from its place. This incident directed his attention to Japan. Just at that time a company of Japanese had arrived in England and set up a little village of their own in Knightsbridge.” The story is an appealing one, but it is largely fictional. Gilbert was interviewed twice about his inspiration for The Mikado. In both interviews the sword was mentioned, and in one of them he said it was the inspiration for the opera, though he never said the sword had fallen. What puts the entire story in doubt is Cellier and Bridgeman's error concerning the Japanese exhibition in Knightsbridge: it did not open until 10 January 1885, almost two months after Gilbert had already completed Act I. Gilbert scholar Brian Jones, in his article "The Sword that Never Fell", notes that "the further removed in time the writer is from the incident, the more graphically it is recalled." Leslie Baily, for instance, told it this way in 1952: “A day or so later Gilbert was striding up and down his library in the new house at Harrington Gardens, fuming at the impasse, when a huge Japanese sword decorating the wall fell with a clatter to the floor. Gilbert picked it up. His perambulations stopped. 'It suggested the broad idea,' as he said later. His journalistic mind, always quick to seize on topicalities, turned to a Japanese Exhibition which had recently been opened in the neighbourhood. Gilbert had seen the little Japanese men and women from the Exhibition shuffling in their exotic robes through the streets of Knightsbridge. Now he sat at his writing desk and picked up the quill pen. He began making notes in his plot-book.” The story was dramatised in more or less this form in the 1999 film Topsy-Turvy. But although the 1885–87 Japanese exhibition in Knightsbridge had not opened when Gilbert conceived of The Mikado, European trade with Japan had increased in recent decades, and an English craze for all things Japanese had built through the 1860s and 1870s. This made the time ripe for an opera set in Japan. Gilbert told a journalist, "I cannot give you a good reason for our ... piece being laid in Japan. It ... afforded scope for picturesque treatment, scenery and costume, and I think that the idea of a chief magistrate, who is ... judge and actual executioner in one, and yet would not hurt a worm, may perhaps please the public." In an 1885 interview with the New-York Daily Tribune, Gilbert said that the short stature of Leonora Braham, Jessie Bond and Sybil Grey "suggested the advisability of grouping them as three Japanese school-girls", the opera's "three little maids". He also recounted that a young Japanese lady, a tea server at the Japanese village, came to rehearsals to coach the three little maids in Japanese dance. On 12 February 1885, one month before The Mikado opened, The Illustrated London News wrote about the opening of the Japanese village noting, among other things, that "the graceful, fantastic dancing featured ... three little maids!" In the Tribune interview, Gilbert also related that he and Sullivan had decided to cut the only solo sung by the opera's title character (who appears only in Act II, played by Savoy veteran Richard Temple), but that members of the company and others who had witnessed the dress rehearsal "came to us in a body and begged us to restore the excised 'number'".
ProductionsThe Mikado had the longest original run of the Savoy Operas. It also had the quickest revival: after Gilbert and Sullivan's next work, Ruddigore, closed relatively quickly, three operas were revived to fill the interregnum until The Yeomen of the Guard was ready, including The Mikado, just 17 months after its first run closed. On 4 September 1891, D'Oyly Carte's touring "C" company gave a Royal Command Performance of The Mikado at Balmoral Castle before Queen Victoria and the Royal Family. The original set design was by Hawes Craven, with men's costumes by C. Wilhelm. The first provincial production of The Mikado opened on 27 July 1885 in Brighton, with several members of that company leaving in August to present the first authorised American production in New York. From then on, The Mikado was a constant presence on tour. From 1885 until the Company's closure in 1982, there was no year in which a D'Oyly Carte company (or several of them) was not presenting it. The Mikado was revived again while The Grand Duke was in preparation. When it became clear that that opera was not a success, The Mikado was given at matinees, and the revival continued when The Grand Duke closed after just three months. In 1906–07, Helen Carte, the widow of Richard D'Oyly Carte, mounted a repertory season at the Savoy, but The Mikado was not performed, as it was thought that visiting Japanese royalty might be offended by it. It was included, however, in Mrs. Carte's second repertory season, in 1908–09. New costume designs were created by Charles Ricketts for the 1926 season and were used until 1982. Peter Goffin designed new sets in 1952. In America, as had happened with H.M.S. Pinafore, the first productions were unauthorised, but once D'Oyly Carte's American production opened in August 1885, it was a success, earning record profits, and Carte formed several companies to tour the show in North America. Burlesque and parody productions, including political parodies, were mounted. More than 150 unauthorised versions cropped up, and, as had been the case with Pinafore, Carte, Gilbert and Sullivan could do nothing to prevent them or to capture any license fees, since there was no international copyright treaty at the time. Gilbert, Sullivan and Carte tried various techniques for gaining an American copyright that would prevent unauthorised productions. The U.S. courts held, however, that the act of publication made the opera freely available for production by anyone. In Australia, The Mikado's first authorised performance was on 14 November 1885 at the Theatre Royal, Sydney, produced by J. C. Williamson. During 1886, Carte was touring five Mikado companies in North America. Carte toured the opera in 1886 and again in 1887 in Germany and elsewhere in Europe. In September 1886 Vienna's leading critic, Eduard Hanslick, wrote that the opera's "unparalleled success" was attributable not only to the libretto and the music, but also to "the wholly original stage performance, unique of its kind, by Mr D'Oyly Carte's artists... riveting the eye and ear with its exotic allurement." Authorised productions were also seen in France, Holland, Hungary, Spain, Belgium, Scandinavia, Russia and elsewhere. Thousands of amateur productions have been mounted throughout the English-speaking world and beyond since the 1880s. One production during World War I was given in the Ruhleben internment camp in Germany. After the Gilbert copyrights expired in 1962, the Sadler's Wells Opera mounted the first non-D'Oyly Carte professional production in England, with Clive Revill as Ko-Ko. Among the many professional revivals since then was an English National Opera production in 1986, with Eric Idle as Ko-Ko and Lesley Garrett as Yum-Yum, directed by Jonathan Miller. This production, which has been revived numerous times over three decades, is set in a swanky 1920s English seaside hotel, with sets and costumes in black and white "as an homage to the Marx Brothers, Noël Coward, and Busby Berkeley". Canada's Stratford Festival has produced The Mikado several times, first in 1963 and again in 1982 (revived in 1983 and 1984) and in 1993.
Résumé: Dans le Japon de fantaisie où nous entraînent les auteurs, les lois sont aussi bizarres que cruelles : on y est condamné à mort pour flirt ! C’est ce qui est arrivé dans la commune de Titipu au pauvre tailleur Ko-Ko, mais la ville s’oppose à la sévérité du Mikado en nommant Ko-Ko « Haut-bourreau-en-chef ». De cette façon, toute exécution cesse, puisque le nouveau promu ne saurait se couper la tête lui-même. Mais on annonce la venue du grand Mikado, empereur du Japon : il souhaite assister à une exécution capitale (son péché mignon). Comment le satisfaire quand on est un bourreau novice et incompétent, qu’on n’a aucun condamné, ni même de volontaire à se mettre sous le sabre ? De plus, voilà que sa propre fiancée est amoureuse d’un jeune musicien ambulant…
Création: 14/3/1885 - Savoy Theatre (Londres) - 672 représ.
Musique: Arthur Sullivan • Paroles: Livret: W.S. Gilbert • Production originale: 1 version mentionnée
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"Ruddigore" est la 10e collaboration entre Gilbert et Sullivan. L'"opéra surnaturel" ouvrit ses portes le 21 janvier 1887 au Théâtre de Savoie et donna 288 représentations. Il ne fut repris qu’en 1920 quand il fut substantiellement coupé et pourvu d’une nouvelle ouverture arrangée par Geoffrey Toye. L’opéra est une parodie du mélodrame populaire — le méchant qui emporte la jeune fille; l’héroïne, pauvre mais vertueuse, aux bonnes manières; le héros déguisé et son fidèle serviteur qui rêve de ses jours glorieux; le serpent dans l’herbe qui prétend suivre son cœur; la jeune fille folle et sauvage; le fanfaron du patriotisme dévoreur de feu; les fantômes qui viennent à la vie pour imposer une malédiction; et ainsi de suite. Mais comme l’a noté un critique, Gilbert renverse les absolus moraux du mélodrame : "Le bien devient mauvais, le mal devient bon, et les héros prennent le chemin de la facilité."
Genèse: After The Mikado opened in 1885, Gilbert, as usual, promptly turned his thoughts to finding a subject for a next opera. Some of the plot elements of Ruddigore had been introduced by Gilbert in his earlier one-act opera, Ages Ago (1869), including the tale of the wicked ancestor and the device of the ancestors stepping out of their portraits. Heinrich Marschner's 1828 opera, Der Vampyr, involves a Lord Ruthven who must abduct and sacrifice three maidens or die. Locals claim that the Murgatroyd ancestors in Ruddigore are based on the Murgatroyd family of East Riddlesden Hall, West Yorkshire. According to his biographers, Sidney Dark and Rowland Grey, Gilbert also drew on some of his earlier verse, the Bab Ballads, for some plot elements. The song "I know a youth who loves a little maid," can be traced back to the Bab Ballad "The Modest Couple", in which the very shy and proper Peter and Sarah are betrothed but are reluctant to shake hands or sit side by side. Sir Roderic's Act II song "When the night wind howls" had its forerunner in one of Gilbert's verses published in Fun magazine in 1869: Fair phantom, come! The moon's awake, The owl hoots gaily from its brake, The blithesome bat's a-wing. Come, soar to yonder silent clouds; The ether teems with peopled shrouds: We’ll fly the lightsome spectre crowds, Thou cloudy, clammy thing! The opera also includes and parodies elements of melodrama, popular at the Adelphi Theatre. There is a priggishly good-mannered poor-but-virtuous heroine, a villain who carries off the maiden, a hero in disguise and his faithful old retainer who dreams of their former glory days, the snake-in-the-grass sailor who claims to be following his heart, the wild, mad girl, the swagger of fire-eating patriotism, ghosts coming to life to enforce a family curse, and so forth. But Gilbert, in his customary topsy-turvy fashion, turns the moral absolutes of melodrama upside down: The hero becomes evil, the villain becomes good, and the virtuous maiden changes fiancés at the drop of a hat. The ghosts come back to life, foiling the curse, and all ends happily. Sullivan delayed in setting Ruddigore to music through most of 1886. He had committed to a heavy conducting schedule and to compose a cantata, The Golden Legend, for the triennial Leeds Music Festival in October 1886. He also was squiring Fanny Ronalds to numerous social functions. Fortunately, The Mikado was still playing strongly, and Sullivan prevailed on Gilbert to delay production of Ruddigore. He got down to business in early November, however, and rehearsals began in December. During the Act II ghost scene, it would be impossible for the cast to see Sullivan's baton when the stage was darkened for the Ancestors' reincarnation. A technological solution was found: Sullivan used a glass tube baton containing a platinum wire that glowed a dull red. The opera encountered some criticism from audiences at its opening on 22 January 1887, and one critic wondered if the libretto showed "signs of the failing powers of the author". After a run shorter than any of the earlier Gilbert and Sullivan operas premiered at the Savoy except Princess Ida, Ruddigore closed in November 1887 to make way for a revival of H.M.S. Pinafore. To allow the revival of the earlier work to be prepared at the Savoy, the last two performances of Ruddigore were given at the Crystal Palace, on 8 and 9 November. It was not revived in the lifetimes of the composer or author.
Résumé: Les baronnets de Ruddigore sont maudits. Quiconque accède à ce titre doit commettre un crime tous les jours - ou périr dans une agonie inconcevable. Robin Oakapple, un jeune fermier aime Rose Maybud, mais les deux sont trop timides pour se l'avouer l'un à l’autre. Mais Robin a un secret. Il est en réalité Sir Ruthven Murgatroyd, le légitime baronnet de Ruddigore, déguisé. Son frère cadet, Despard, croyant Ruthven mort, a pris le titre. Le frère adoptif de Robin, Richard, cherchant à séduire Rose, raconte à Despard la tromperie de Robin, et Robin est forcé d’assumer son vrai statut, abandonnant Rose à Richard dans le processus. Redevenu baronnet de Ruddigore, Robin est confronté aux fantômes de ses ancêtres qui s’éloignent de leurs cadres dans la galerie du château de Ruddigore pour le confronter pour ne pas avoir commis consciencieusement son crime quotidien. Robin finit par trouver un moyen de satisfaire les exigences de ses ancêtres tout en continuant à vivre une vie irréprochable…
Création: 22/1/1887 - Savoy Theatre (Londres) - 288 représ.
Musique: Arthur Sullivan • Paroles: W.S. Gilbert • Livret: W.S. Gilbert • Production originale: 3 versions mentionnées
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L’opéra est situé dans la Tour de Londres, au XVIe siècle, et est le plus sombre, et peut-être le plus émouvant, des Savoy-Opera, débouchant sur un personnage principal au cœur brisé et deux engagements très mitigés plutôt que sur les nombreux mariages habituels. Le livret contient beaucoup d’humour, mais la satire caractéristique de Gilbert et les complications de l’intrigue sont maîtrisées par rapport aux autres opéras de Gilbert et Sullivan. Le dialogue, bien qu'en prose, est quasi-Shakespearien. Les critiques considéraient la partition comme la meilleure de Sullivan, y compris son ouverture, qui est sous forme de sonate, plutôt que d’être écrite comme un pot-pourri séquentiel de morceaux de l’opéra, comme dans la plupart des autres ouvertures de Gilbert et Sullivan. Ce fut le premier Savoy Opera à utiliser le grand orchestre de Sullivan, dont un deuxième basson et un troisième trombone. La plupart des opéras subséquents de Sullivan, y compris ceux qui ne sont pas composés avec Gilbert comme librettiste, utilisent ce grand orchestre.
Genèse: When the previous Gilbert and Sullivan opera, Ruddigore, finished its run at the Savoy Theatre, no new Gilbert and Sullivan opera was ready, and for nearly a year the stage was devoted to revivals of such old successes as H.M.S. Pinafore, The Pirates of Penzance and The Mikado. For several years leading up to the premiere of Yeomen, Sullivan had expressed the desire to leave his partnership with W.S. Gilbert in order to turn to writing grand opera and other serious works full-time. Before the premiere of Yeomen, Sullivan had recently been lauded for the successful oratorio The Golden Legend and would produce his grand opera, Ivanhoe, only 15 months after Yeomen. In the autumn of 1887, after another attempt to interest his collaborator in a plot where the characters, by swallowing a magic pill, became who they were pretending to be (Sullivan had rejected this idea before), Gilbert made an effort to meet his collaborator half way. Gilbert claimed that the idea for the opera came to him while he was waiting for the train in Uxbridge and spotted an advertisement for The Tower Furnishing and Finance Company, illustrated with a Beefeater. On Christmas Day, 1887, he read to Sullivan and Carte his plot sketch for an opera set at the Tower of London. Sullivan was "immensely pleased" and, with much relief, accepted it, writing in his diary, "Pretty story, no topsy turvydom, very human, & funny also". Although not a grand opera, Yeomen provided Sullivan with the opportunity to write his most ambitious score to date. The two set to work on the new opera, taking longer to prepare it than they had taken with many of their earlier works. Gilbert made every effort to accommodate his collaborator, even writing alternative lyrics to some songs. Sullivan had trouble setting one lyric in particular, "I have a song to sing-O!", with its increasing length in each stanza. He asked Gilbert if he had anything in mind when writing it. Gilbert hummed a few lines from a sea shanty, and Sullivan knew what to do. The first act was rather long and contained an unusual number of sentimental pieces. As opening night approached, Gilbert became increasingly apprehensive. Would the audience accept this serious, sentimental tone from one of the duo's "comic" operas? Gilbert and Sullivan cut two songs from Act I and part of the Act I finale, partly to decrease the number of sentimental pieces near the beginning of the opera. Gilbert, always nervous himself on opening nights, came backstage before the performance on opening night to "have a word" with some of the actors, inadvertently conveying his worries to the cast and making them even more nervous. Jessie Bond, who was to open the show with a solo song alone on stage, finally said to him, "For Heaven's sake, Mr. Gilbert, go away and leave me alone, or I shan't be able to sing a note!"
Résumé: Situé dans la Tour de Londres sous le règne du roi Henry VIII, "The Yeomen of the Guard" raconte l’histoire du colonel Fairfax, héros de guerre , injustement piégé, emprisonné et condamné à mort pour sorcellerie, et le complot mis au point par le sergent Meryll et sa fille, Phoebe, pour libérer le colonel de la Tour de Londres en le déguisant en l’un des gardiens de cette même Tour: le célèbre Yeomen de la Garde.
Création: 3/10/1888 - Savoy Theatre (Londres) - 423 représ.
Musique: Arthur Sullivan • Paroles: W.S. Gilbert • Livret: W.S. Gilbert • Production originale: 4 versions mentionnées
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Gilbert revient, dans cet opéra, à la satire du snobisme concernant les distinctions de classe et commence sa fascination, qui jouera un rôle encore plus important dans le prochain opéra, "Utopia Limited", avec la loi "Stock Company Act" qui organise et facilite la possibilité de créer des sociétés, des personnes morales. Une fois de plus, en éloignant confortablement son œuvre de la mère-patrie anglaise, Gilbert se permet de critiquer sévèrement la noblesse et l’institution de la monarchie elle-même.
Genèse: Genesis of the opera The Gondoliers was preceded by the most serious of the Gilbert and Sullivan collaborations, The Yeomen of the Guard. On 9 January 1889, three months into that opera's fourteen-month run, Sullivan informed the librettist that he "wanted to do some dramatic work on a larger musical scale", that he "wished to get rid of the strongly marked rhythm, and rhymed couplets, and have words that would have a chance of developing musical effects." Gilbert counselled strongly that the partnership should continue on its former course: "I have thought carefully over your letter, and while I quite understand and sympathize with your desire to write what, for want of a better term, I suppose we must call 'grand opera,' I cannot believe that it would succeed either at the Savoy or at Carte's new theatre.... Moreover, to speak from my own selfish point of view, such an opera would afford me no chance of doing what I best do — the librettist of a grand opera is always swamped in the composer. Anybody — Hersee, Farnie, Reece — can write a good libretto for such a purpose; personally, I should be lost in it. Again, the success of the Yeoman — which is a step in the direction of serious opera — has not been so convincing as to warrant us in assuming that the public want something more earnest still". On 12 March, Sullivan responded, "I have lost the liking for writing comic opera, and entertain very grave doubts as to my power of doing it.... You say that in a serious opera, you must more or less sacrifice yourself. I say that this is just what I have been doing in all our joint pieces, and, what is more, must continue to do in comic opera to make it successful." A series of increasingly acrimonious letters followed over the ensuing weeks, with Sullivan laying down new terms for the collaboration, and Gilbert insisting that he had always bent over backwards to comply with the composer's musical requirements. Gilbert tried to encourage his collaborator: "You say that our operas are Gilbert's pieces with music added by you.... I say that when you deliberately assert that for 12 years you, incomparably the greatest English musician of the age — a man whose genius is a proverb wherever the English tongue is spoken — a man who can deal en prince with operatic managers, singers, music publishers and musical societies — when you, who hold this unparalleled position, deliberately state that you have submitted silently and uncomplainingly for 12 years to be extinguished, ignored, set aside, rebuffed, and generally effaced by your librettist, you grievously reflect, not upon him, but upon yourself and the noble art of which you are so eminent a professor". Gilbert offered a compromise that Sullivan ultimately accepted — that the composer would write a light opera for the Savoy, and a grand opera (Ivanhoe) for a new theatre that Carte was constructing for that purpose. Sullivan's acceptance came with the proviso that "we are thoroughly agreed upon the subject." Gilbert suggested an opera based on a theatrical company, which Sullivan rejected (though a version of it would be resurrected in 1896 as The Grand Duke), but he accepted an idea "connected with Venice and Venetian life, and this seemed to me to hold out great chances of bright colour and taking music. Can you not develop this with something we can both go into with warmth and enthusiasm and thus give me a subject in which (like the Mikado and Patience) we can both be interested....?" Gilbert set to work on the new libretto by the early summer of 1889, and by the mid-summer Sullivan had started composing Act I. Gilbert provided Sullivan with alternative lyrics for many passages, allowing the composer to choose which ones he preferred. The long opening number (more than fifteen minutes of continuous music) was the librettist's idea, and it gave Sullivan the opportunity to establish the mood of the work through music. The costumes were designed by Percy Anderson, with choreography by Willie Warde. They worked all summer and autumn, with a successful opening on 7 December 1889. Press accounts were almost entirely favourable, and the opera enjoyed a run longer than any of their other joint works except for H.M.S. Pinafore, Patience and The Mikado. Sullivan's old collaborator on Cox and Box (and the editor of Punch), F. C. Burnand, wrote, "Magnificento! ... I envy you and W.S.G. being able to place a piece like this on the stage in so complete a fashion." Reaction of the press and public Leslie Baily notes, "The bubbling, champagne-quality of the libretto brought out the gayest Sullivan, and the Italian setting called up a warm, southern response from his own ancestry. The Graphic (14 December 1889) pointed out that the music contains not only an English idiom but 'the composer has borrowed from France the stately gavotte, from Spain the Andalusian cachucha, from Italy the saltarello and the tarantella, and from Venice itself the Venetian barcarolle'. Of Gilbert's contribution, the Illustrated London News reported, "Mr. W. S. Gilbert has returned to the Gilbert of the past, and everyone is delighted. He is himself again. The Gilbert of The Bab Ballads, the Gilbert of whimsical conceit, inoffensive cynicism, subtle satire, and playful paradox; the Gilbert who invented a school of his own, who in it was schoolmaster and pupil, who has never taught anybody but himself, and is never likely to have any imitator—this is the Gilbert the public want to see, and this is the Gilbert who on Saturday night was cheered till the audience was weary of cheering any more." There was a command performance of The Gondoliers for Queen Victoria and the royal family at Windsor Castle on 6 March 1891, the first performance of a Gilbert and Sullivan opera to be so honoured and the first theatrical entertainment to take place at Windsor since the death of Prince Albert thirty years earlier. The Carpet Quarrel With the exception of their first opera, Richard D'Oyly Carte produced every Gilbert and Sullivan opera and had built the Savoy Theatre specifically for productions of their shows. However, on several occasions during the 1880s the relationship among Gilbert, Sullivan and Carte had been strained. In April 1890, during the run of The Gondoliers, Gilbert discovered that maintenance expenses for the theatre, including a new £500 carpet for the front lobby of the theatre, were being charged to the partnership instead of borne by Carte. Gilbert confronted Carte, but the producer refused to reconsider the accounts. Gilbert stormed out and wrote to Sullivan that "I left him with the remark that it was a mistake to kick down the ladder by which he had risen". Helen D'Oyly Carte wrote that Gilbert had addressed Carte "in a way that I should not have thought you would have used to an offending menial." As scholar Andrew Crowther has explained: After all, the carpet was only one of a number of disputed items, and the real issue lay not in the mere money value of these things, but in whether Carte could be trusted with the financial affairs of Gilbert and Sullivan. Gilbert contended that Carte had at best made a series of serious blunders in the accounts, and at worst deliberately attempted to swindle the others. It is not easy to settle the rights and wrongs of the issue at this distance, but it does seem fairly clear that there was something very wrong with the accounts at this time. Gilbert wrote to Sullivan on 28 May 1891, a year after the end of the "Quarrel", that Carte had admitted "an unintentional overcharge of nearly £1,000 in the electric lighting accounts alone. Sullivan supported Carte, and Gilbert felt betrayed. Sullivan felt that Gilbert was questioning his good faith, and in any event, Sullivan had other reasons to stay in Carte's good graces: Carte was building a new theatre, the Royal English Opera House, to produce Sullivan's only grand opera, Ivanhoe. On 5 May 1890, Gilbert had written to Sullivan: "The time for putting an end to our collaboration has at last arrived." Gilbert brought suit, and after The Gondoliers closed in 1891, he withdrew the performance rights to his libretti and vowed to write no more operas for the Savoy. Gilbert's aggressive, though successful, legal action had embittered Sullivan and Carte. But the partnership had been so profitable that Carte eventually sought to reunite the dramatist and composer. After many failed attempts by Carte and his wife, Gilbert and Sullivan reunited through the efforts of Tom Chappell, who published the sheet music to their operas. In 1893, they produced their penultimate collaboration, Utopia, Limited. But The Gondoliers would prove to be Gilbert and Sullivan's last big hit. Utopia was only a modest success, and their final collaboration, The Grand Duke, in 1896, was a failure. The two would never collaborate again.
Résumé: Deux gondoliers vénitiens, rédemment mariés, sont informés par le Grand Inquisiteur que l’un d’eux vient de devenir le Roi de "Barataria", mais seule leur mère adoptive, actuellement en liberté, sait lequel. Comme Barataria a besoin d’un roi pour calmer les troubles dans le pays, ils se rendent tous deux là-bas pour régner ensemble, laissant leurs femmes à Venise jusqu’à ce que la vieille dame puisse être interrogée. Il s’avère que le roi a été marié en bas âge à la belle fille du duc espagnol de Plaza Toro, et il semble donc qu’il ait été un bigame involontaire. Quand le jeune Espagnol et les deux femmes vénitiennes se présentent toutes en voulant savoir laquelle d’entre elles est reine, des complications surgissent. Pas de soucis: la véritable identité du roi est révélée, et tout est passé au peigne fin de façon spectaculaire.
Création: 7/12/1889 - Savoy Theatre (Londres) - représ.
Musique: Arthur Sullivan • Paroles: Livret: W.S. Gilbert • Production originale: 0 version mentionnée
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« Utopia, Limited » ouvrit ses portes le 7 octobre 1893 au Savoy Theatre et tint l’affiche 245 représentations. C’était l’avant-dernière collaboration entre Gilbert et Sullivan, ouvrant plus de deux ans seulement après la fermeture de « Gondoliers », suite à un litige juridique entre Gilbert d’une part et Carte et Sullivan de l’autre, la célèbre « Carpet Quarrel » (« la dispute du tapis »). En dépit de leurs tentatives pour rafistoler leur relation, ils ne seront plus jamais sur les mêmes bases que celle des années ‘80. « Utopia, Limited » fut la mise en scène la plus extravagante de tous les Savoy-Opera. Elle nécessita un très grand casting. Le livret de Gilbert était moins étroitement construit que les précédents et, pour certains, la partition est la plus faible de Sullivan. Cela peut expliquer pourquoi cette œuvre a toujours été moins rejouée que les autres. Mais la pièce n’est pas sans admirateurs. George Bernard Shaw a déclaré : « J’ai apprécié la partition d’Utopia plus que celle de n’importe lequel des Savoy-Opera précédents. »
Genèse: In 1890, during the production of Gilbert and Sullivan's previous opera, The Gondoliers, Gilbert became embroiled in a legal dispute with their producer, Richard D'Oyly Carte, over the cost of a new carpet for the Savoy Theatre – and, more generally, over the accounting for expenses over the course of their long partnership. Sullivan sided with Carte and was made a defendant in the case, and the partnership disbanded. Gilbert vowed to write no more operas for the Savoy, and after The Gondoliers closed in 1891, Gilbert withdrew the performance rights to his libretti. It was not until October 1891, after conversations with their publisher Tom Chappell, that Gilbert and Sullivan reconciled. After fulfilling their respective open commitments Gilbert and Sullivan were able to plan to renew their collaboration on a new opera, Utopia, Limited. The lawsuit, however, had left Gilbert and Sullivan somewhat embittered, and their last two works together suffered from a less collegial working relationship than the two men had typically enjoyed while writing earlier operas. Genesis of the opera In November 1892, after lengthy and delicate discussions over the financial arrangements for a new opera, Gilbert, Sullivan and Carte were able to reach an agreement and set to work on the new opera. On 27 January 1893, Gilbert read the plot outline for the libretto to Sullivan, and by July, he was finished with the libretto. Gilbert suffered from bad gout throughout the summer and autumn of 1893 and had to attend rehearsals in a wheelchair. Gilbert and Sullivan disagreed on several matters, including the character of Lady Sophy, and Sullivan found some of Gilbert's lyrics difficult to set. Their lack of cohesion during the writing and editing of Utopia was in marked contrast with what Sullivan called the "oneness" of their previous collaborations since Trial by Jury in 1875. Nonetheless, Sullivan completed the setting of Gilbert's first act within a month, and received particular congratulations from his collaborator for the finale, which Gilbert considered the best Sullivan had composed. For Utopia, the creators engaged Hawes Craven to design the sets, which were much praised. Craven was the designer for Henry Irving's spectacular Shakespeare productions at the Lyceum Theatre. Percy Anderson designed the costumes. The scenery, properties and costumes cost an unprecedented total of £7,200. In 1893, the year Utopia, Limited was produced, Princess Kaiulani of the independent monarchy of Hawaii attended a private school in England. She was the talk of the society pages, with much speculation as to the influence English "civilization" would have on the Princess and eventually her homeland. Two decades earlier, in 1870, Anna Leonowens first wrote about her six-year stint as governess to the children of the king of Siam (Thailand) in The English Governess at the Siamese Court. The two ladies and their stories are likely to have influenced the characters of Princess Zara and Lady Sophy, respectively. Another impetus for Gilbert in the genesis of the work was his disdain for England's Limited Liability Act of 1862, which he had begun to explore in the previous opera with Sullivan, The Gondoliers. By using an imaginary setting, Gilbert was emboldened to level some sharp satire at the British Empire, jingoism, the monarchy, party politics and other institutions that might have touched a more sensitive nerve if the opera had a British setting. In this work, Gilbert returns to the idea of an anti-Utopia, which he had explored, in various ways, in his early one-act operas, Happy Arcadia, Our Island Home, Topsyturveydom, and some of his other early works, especially The Happy Land. The previous Gilbert and Sullivan opera, The Gondoliers, also concerns an imaginary island kingdom where the rules of court are considerably different from those in Britain. In Utopia, the island begins as a virtual paradise, is thrown into chaos by the importation of "English" influences, and is eventually saved by an English political expedience. Gilbert's biographer Jane Stedman calls this a "Gilbertian invasion plot". The opera's satiric treatment of limited liability entities that are not required to honour their obligations and scandal in the monarchy was effective in 1893 and still resonates today. In addition, the show satirises "practically everything English – English prudery, English conversation, English company promoting, the English party system, the English War Office and Admiralty, the County Council, and the English Cabinet." Apart from satirical elements, Gilbert indulges in some small topical touches throughout the libretto. For instance, he was up-to-date in his technological references (as he had been in H.M.S. Pinafore with the mention of the telephone), referencing George Eastman's new product, the Kodak camera, and its slogan, "You Press the Button, We Do the Rest". Gilbert also throws some barbs at the Lord Chamberlain's office, as he loved to do. In addition, The Court of St. James's is mockingly confused with St James's Hall and its minstrel shows. Sullivan joins in the parody, underlining the mock praise of all things English with a repeated motif throughout the score based on the melody of "Rule Britannia!". Reception and aftermath The Savoy audiences were glad to see Gilbert and Sullivan back together, and the first-night reception was rapturous. Sullivan wrote in his diary, "Went into the orchestra at 8.15 sharp. My ovation lasted 65 seconds! Piece went wonderfully well – not a hitch of any kind, and afterwards G. and I had a double call." The critics were divided on the merits of the piece. Punch, habitually hostile to Gilbert, commented, "'Limited' it is, in more senses than one." The Standard, by contrast, said, "Mr. Gilbert and Sir Arthur Sullivan are here at their very best … The wit, humour and satire of the book have not been surpassed in any of the author's previous operas, the composer's fascinating vein of melody flows as freshly as ever, and the orchestration is full of characteristically happy fancies … A more complete success has never been achieved in comic opera, even at the Savoy." The Pall Mall Gazette also praised Sullivan's contribution, but disparaged Gilbert's: in its view the music "has not its equal in the whole Sullivan and Gilbert series", but the book had "not merely a sense of cheapness but the sense of weariness even to exhaustion." The Era commented that Gilbert's "wit was as sparkling and his satire as keen as ever," and thought the council scene "screamingly funny". The Observer judged that Gilbert had lost none of his merits, and that "wit abounds" and "is as spontaneous as ever: not forced or vulgarised, and his rhymes are always faultless." Some critics thought it a weakness that the work contained references to the earlier Gilbert and Sullivan operas, for example in the re-use of the character Captain Corcoran, and communications between King Paramount and the Mikado of Japan. The Pall Mall Gazette observed, "It is always a melancholy business when a writer is driven to imitate himself. Utopia (limited) is a mirthless travesty of the work with which his name is most generally associated. ... Mr. Gilbert has failed to make the old seem new". The Musical Times reported the theatregoing public's rejoicing that the partners were reunited, but added: “[A]ll would have indulged in renewed jubilations had Utopia (Limited) proved equal in humour and general freshness to the most successful of the companion works. This, unfortunately, cannot be said, although, of course, as compared with ordinary productions of the opéra bouffe class it stands out sufficiently clear. Mr. Gilbert could not put forward a silly or inane book, and Sir Arthur Sullivan could not pen music otherwise than refined, tuneful, and characterised by musicianly touches. It is only in comparison with such masterpieces of humour and dramatic and musical satire as Patience, The Mikado, The Yeomen of the Guard, and The Gondoliers that the libretto of Utopia (Limited) seems a trifle dull, particularly in the first Act, and the music for the most part reminiscent rather than fresh.” The Daily News and The Globe both noted that Act I ran longer than any previous Savoy Opera and needed pruning. The Manchester Guardian praised the work, but commented that there was "much (sometimes too much) Gilbertian dialogue". However, Gilbert and Sullivan's choices for what to cut are suspect. The soprano's aria, "Youth is a boon avowed" got some of the most enthusiastic reviews from the press but was cut after the opening night. The Globe called it "one of Sir Arthur Sullivan's best works". Also, the pre-production cuts left subplots that were introduced in Act I unresolved. For example, Sullivan refused to set one of Gilbert's scenes for Nancy McIntosh, which left the Scaphio–Phantis–Zara subplot unresolved. Rutland Barrington, in his memoirs, felt that the "second act... was not as full of fun as usual" in the Gilbert and Sullivan operas. The show made a modest profit, despite the unusually high cost of staging it. In competition with the musical comedies' fashion pageantry, the drawing room scene was of an unprecedented opulence. The Manchester Guardian called it "one of the most magnificent ever beheld on the stage", and even Punch praised the splendour of the production, but it added thousands of pounds of expense, making Utopia the most expensive of all of the Savoy Operas. The taste of the London theatre-going public was shifting away from comic opera and towards musical comedies such as In Town (1892), A Gaiety Girl (1893) and Morocco Bound (1893), which were to dominate the London stage for the next two decades and beyond. Utopia introduced Gilbert's last protégée, Nancy McIntosh, as Princess Zara, and the role was much expanded to accommodate her. According to the scholar John Wolfson, in his book, Final Curtain, this damaged and unbalanced the script by detracting from its parody of government. Commentators agree that McIntosh was not a good actress, and during the run of Utopia, her lack of confidence and health combined to affect her performance. Utopia, Limited was to be McIntosh's only part with the D'Oyly Carte Opera Company, as Sullivan refused to write another piece if she was to take part in it. Discussions over her playing the role of Yum-Yum in a proposed revival of The Mikado led to another row between the two that prevented the revival, and Gilbert's insistence upon her appearing in His Excellency caused Sullivan to refuse to set the piece. Three years passed before Gilbert and Sullivan collaborated again, on their last work, The Grand Duke. Production history Before the end of October, the title of the piece was changed from Utopia (Limited) to Utopia, Limited. Utopia, Limited ran for 245 performances, a modest success by the standards of the late Victorian theatre; although it was a shorter run than any of Gilbert and Sullivan's 1880s collaborations, it was the longest run at the Savoy in the 1890s. After the original production, four D'Oyly Carte touring companies played Utopia in the British provinces, and the piece was included in tours until 1900. There was also a D'Oyly Carte production in New York in 1894, performances in the D'Oyly Carte South African tour of 1902–03, and a J. C. Williamson production in Australia and New Zealand in 1905 and 1906, managed by Henry Bracy. Rupert D'Oyly Carte considered producing a revival in 1925, but the cost of the production was found to be too great, and the proposed revival was abandoned. Utopia was not revived by the D'Oyly Carte Opera Company until 4 April 1975, during the company's centenary season at the Savoy Theatre, directed by Michael Heyland. The single performance was so oversubscribed that the company arranged to give four further performances at the Royal Festival Hall in London later that year. Various amateur companies performed the opera during the 20th century, and it has enjoyed occasional professional productions in the U.S. by professional companies such as the American Savoyards in the 1950s and 1960s, the Light Opera of Manhattan in the 1970s and 1980s, Light Opera Works in Chicago in 1984 and Ohio Light Opera in 2001. The New York Gilbert and Sullivan Players also gave a staged concert performance in celebration of the opera's centenary in 1993 and again in 2010. The Gilbert & Sullivan Opera Company gave two fully staged performances at the 18th International Gilbert and Sullivan Festival in Buxton, England in 2011, producing a commercial video of the production. Although productions are still less frequent than those of the better-known Gilbert and Sullivan operas, and professional productions are rare, Utopia is regularly presented by some of the amateur Gilbert and Sullivan repertory companies, and an amateur production has been seen most summers at the International Gilbert and Sullivan Festival.
Résumé: « Utopia, Limited » est une satire de l’impérialisme britannique. Plus spécifiquement, il critique les « société à responsabilité limitée » et la notion de faillite sans pénalité. Dans un complot, un groupe de bureaucrates et d’officiers anglais débarquent dans une île idyllique des mers du Sud, Utopia, à la demande de la princesse Zara, fille du roi Paramount, éduquée en Angleterre, pour aligner la politique et la morale d’Utopia sur les normes impeccables de l’Angleterre.
Création: 7/10/1893 - Savoy Theatre (Londres) - 245 représ.
Musique: Arthur Sullivan • Paroles: W.S. Gilbert • Livret: W.S. Gilbert • Production originale: 2 versions mentionnées
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« The Grand Duke» est le dernier Savoy-opera écrit par le librettiste W. S. Gilbert et le compositeur Arthur Sullivan, leur quatorzième et dernier opéra ensemble. Il fut créé au Savoy Theatre le 7 mars 1896 et ne tint l’affiche que 123 représentations. Malgré une soirée d’ouverture réussie, la production a eu une durée relativement courte et a été le seul échec financier du duo, et les deux hommes n’ont plus jamais travaillé ensemble. Dans « The Grand Duke», Gilbert et Sullivan bouclent la boucle, revenant au thème de leur première collaboration: une troupe d’acteurs prend le pouvoir politique. « The Grand Duke» souffre de de nombreux problèmes que l’on retrouvait déjà dans « Utopia Limited » — dont un livret long et décousu — et il exige pour les acteurs principaux des voix de plus grande qualité que leurs autres œuvres. Néanmoins, l’histoire contient un certain nombre de moments hilarants et de personnages drôles, les décors sont colorés et la musique est gaie et savoureuse. Certains trouvent que cet opéra est le plus sous-estimé des œuvres de Gilbert et Sullivan.
Genèse: During the production of Gilbert and Sullivan's 1889 comic opera, The Gondoliers, Gilbert became embroiled in a legal dispute with producer Richard D'Oyly Carte over the cost of a new carpet for the Savoy Theatre and, more generally, over the accounting for expenses of the Gilbert and Sullivan partnership. Sullivan sided with Carte (who was about to produce Sullivan's grand opera, Ivanhoe), and the partnership disbanded. After The Gondoliers closed in 1891, Gilbert withdrew the performance rights to his libretti and vowed to write no more operas for the Savoy. The lawsuit left Gilbert and Sullivan somewhat embittered, and though they finally collaborated on two more works, these suffered from a less collegial working relationship than the two men had typically enjoyed while writing earlier operas. Gilbert and Sullivan's penultimate opera, Utopia, Limited (1893), was a very modest success compared with their earlier collaborations. It introduced Gilbert's last protege, Nancy McIntosh, as the heroine, who received generally unfavourable press. Sullivan refused to write another piece if she was to take part in it. Discussions over her playing the role of Yum-Yum in a proposed revival of The Mikado led to another row between Gilbert and Sullivan that prevented the revival, and Gilbert's insistence upon her appearing in his 1894 opera, His Excellency, caused Sullivan to refuse to set the piece. After His Excellency closed in April 1895, McIntosh wrote to Sullivan informing him that she planned to return to concert singing, and so the obstacle to his further collaboration with Gilbert was removed. Meanwhile, Sullivan had written a comic opera for the Savoy Theatre with F. C. Burnand, The Chieftain, but that had closed in March 1895. Genesis Gilbert had begun working on the story of The Grand Duke in late 1894. Elements of the plot were based on several antecedents including "The Duke's Dilemma" (1853), a short story by Tom Taylor, published in Blackwood's Magazine, about a poor duke who hires French actors to play courtiers to impress his rich fiancee. The story also contains the germ of the character of Ernest. In 1888, "The Duke's Dilemma" was adapted as The Prima Donna, a comic opera by H. B. Farnie that contains other details seen in The Grand Duke, including the Shakespearean costumes, a prince and princess who make a theatrical entrance. In addition, the plot shows similarities with the first Gilbert and Sullivan opera, Thespis, in which a company of actors gain political power. Gilbert read a sketch of the plot to Sullivan on 8 August 1895, and Sullivan wrote on 11 August to say that he would be pleased to write the music, calling Gilbert's plot sketch "as clear and bright as possible". The theme of Ernest (and then Rudolph) being legally dead while still physically alive was used in earlier works by Gilbert and, separately by Sullivan, for example Tom Cobb (1875) and Cox and Box (1867). Gilbert sold the libretto of the new piece to Carte and Sullivan for £5,000, and so he took no risk as to whether or not it would succeed. Mr. and Mrs. Carte hired a new soprano, the Hungarian Ilka Pálmay, who had recently arrived in England and quickly made a favourable impression on London audiences and critics with her charming personality. Gilbert devised a new plot line revolving around Pálmay, making her character, Julia, an English actress among a company of German actors, with the topsy-turvy conceit that her "strong English accent" was forgiven by her audiences because of her great dramatic artistry. Rutland Barrington's role, Ludwig, became the leading comedian of the theatrical company and the central role in the opera. Gilbert had paired the title character with contralto Rosina Brandram, causing Sullivan to suggest some different pairings of the characters, but Gilbert and the Cartes disagreed; Mrs. Carte went so far as to caution Sullivan that his ideas would upset the casting. Unhappily for Gilbert, three of his usual principal players, George Grossmith, Richard Temple and Jessie Bond, who he had originally thought would play the title character, the prince and the princess, all left the company before rehearsals began for The Grand Duke, and so he reduced the size of these roles, further changing his original conception. While Gilbert and Sullivan finished writing the show, the Cartes produced a revival of The Mikado at the Savoy Theatre, opening on 6 November 1895. Rehearsals for The Grand Duke began in January. Sullivan wrote the overture himself, effectively weaving together some of the best melodies in the opera. Gilbert made a few additional changes to the libretto shortly before opening night to avoid giving offense to Kaiser Wilhelm, possibly at the request of Sullivan, who valued the Kaiser's friendship. These included changing the name of the title character from Wilhelm to Rudolph. Original production and reception The opera premiered on 7 March 1896, and Sullivan conducted the orchestra, as he always did on opening nights. Costumes were by Percy Anderson. The opening night was a decided success, and the critics praised Gilbert's direction, Pálmay's singing and acting, Walter Passmore as Rudolph, and the cast in general. There were some reservations, however. The Times's review of the opening night's performance said: “The Grand Duke is not by any means another Mikado, and, though it is far from being the least attractive of the series, signs are not wanting that the rich vein which the collaborators and their various followers have worked for so many years is at last dangerously near exhaustion. This time the libretto is very conspicuously inferior to the music. There are still a number of excellent songs, but the dialogue seems to have lost much of its crispness, the turning-point of what plot there is requires considerable intellectual application before it can be thoroughly grasped, and some of the jests are beaten out terribly thin." The reviewer stated that the jokes might be funnier if the dialogue between them were "compressed". The Manchester Guardian concurred: "Mr. Gilbert's tendency to over-elaboration has nowhere shown itself so obtrusively.... Mr. Gilbert has introduced too many whimsical ideas which practically bear no relation to the story proper". Although the audience greeted the new piece enthusiastically, neither partner was satisfied. Sullivan wrote in his diary, "Parts of it dragged a little – dialogue too redundant but success great and genuine I think.... Thank God opera is finished & out." Gilbert wrote to his friend, Mrs. Bram Stoker: "I'm not at all a proud Mother, and I never want to see this ugly misshapen little brat again." After the opening night, Sullivan left to recuperate in Monte Carlo. Gilbert reacted to the reviews by making cuts in the opera. These included three songs in Act II, and commentators have questioned the wisdom of these particular cuts, especially the Baroness's drinking song and the Prince's roulette song. The Grand Duke closed after 123 performances on 11 July 1896, Gilbert and Sullivan's only financial failure. It toured the British provinces for a year and was produced in Germany on 20 May 1896 at the Unter den Linden Theatre in Berlin and on a D'Oyly Carte tour of South Africa the same year. After this, it disappeared from the professional repertory, although Gilbert considered reviving it in 1909. Analysis and subsequent history The Grand Duke is longer than most of the earlier Gilbert and Sullivan operas, and more of the libretto is devoted to dialogue. Gilbert's cutting of parts of the opera after the opening night did not prevent it from having a shorter run than any of the earlier collaborations since Trial by Jury. In addition to whatever weaknesses the show had, as compared with earlier Gilbert and Sullivan pieces, the taste of the London theatregoing public had shifted away from comic opera to musical comedies, such as A Gaiety Girl (1893), The Shop Girl (1894) and An Artist's Model (1895), which were to dominate the London stage through World War I. One of the most successful musical comedies of the 1890s, The Geisha (1896), competed directly against The Grand Duke and was by far the greater success. After its original production, The Grand Duke was not revived by the D'Oyly Carte Opera Company until 1975 (and then only in concert), and performances by other companies have been less frequent than most of the other Gilbert and Sullivan operas. 20th century critics dismissed the work. For example, H. M. Walbrook wrote in 1921, "It reads like the work of a tired man. ... There is his manner but not his wit, his lyrical fluency but not his charm. ... [For] the most part, the lyrics were uninspiring and the melodies uninspired." Of Gilbert's work in the opera, Isaac Goldberg opined, "the old self-censorship has relaxed", and of Sullivan's he concludes, "his grip upon the text was relaxing; he pays less attention to the words, setting them with less regard than formerly to their natural rhythms". In the first half of the 20th century, The Grand Duke was produced occasionally by amateur companies, including the Savoy Company of Philadelphia and the Blue Hill Troupe of New York City, who pride themselves on producing all of the Gilbert and Sullivan operas. In America, it was mounted by professional companies, including the American Savoyards, beginning in 1959, and the Light Opera of Manhattan in the 1970s and 1980s. The BBC assembled a cast to broadcast the opera (together with the rest of the Gilbert and Sullivan series) in 1966 (led by former D'Oyly Carte comic Peter Pratt) and again in 1989. Of a 1962 production by The Lyric Theater Company of Washington, D.C., The Washington Post wrote, "the difficulties were worth surmounting, for the work is a delight. ... Throughout the work are echoes of their earlier and more successful collaborations, but Pfennig Halbpfennig retains a flavor all its own." Since the D'Oyly Carte Opera Company released its recording of the piece in 1976, The Grand Duke has been produced more frequently. The New York Gilbert and Sullivan Players produced a concert version in 1995 and a full production in 2011. Writer Marc Shepherd concluded that the work "is full of bright comic situations and Gilbert's characteristic topsy-turvy wit. Sullivan's contribution has been considered first-rate from the beginning. The opera shows him branching out into a more harmonically adventurous Continental operetta style." The first fully staged professional revival in the UK took place in 2012 at the Finborough Theatre in London, starring Richard Suart in the title role, with a reduced cast and two-piano accompaniment. The Gilbert and Sullivan Opera Company presented a full-scale professional production with orchestra at the International Gilbert and Sullivan Festival later in 2012.
Résumé: L'intrigue repose sur l'interprétation erronée d'une loi centenaire concernant les duels statutaires (décidé par tirage au sort). Par un tel duel statutaire, Ludwig, simple acteur, remplace le directeur de sa compagnie, Ernest. Mais il ne va pas s’arrêter là et devient le fer de lance de la rébellion contre le Grand-Duc Rudolph de Pfennig Halbpfennig, hypocondriaque et avare, contre qui il remporte aussi un duel statutaire. Il obtient ainsi tous ses pouvoirs et peut se fiancer à quatre femmes différentes avant que le complot ne soit découvert. Car, tout est bien qui finit bien : un avocat va tout dénoncer… Une fois encore les classes riches et la noblesse sont brocardées et, comme dans la « Princess Ida » , « The Mikado » , « The Gondoliers » et « Utopia, Limited », le fait que l’action se déroule à l’étranger enhardit Gilbert à utiliser une satire particulièrement pointue .
Création: 7/3/1896 - Savoy Theatre (Londres) - 123 représ.
Musique: Arthur Sullivan • Paroles: Basil Hood • Livret: Basil Hood • Production originale: 2 versions mentionnées
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Genèse: When the Gilbert and Sullivan partnership collapsed after the production of The Gondoliers in 1889, impresario Richard D'Oyly Carte struggled to find successful new works for the Savoy Theatre. He was able to bring Gilbert and Sullivan together briefly for two more operas (Utopia, Limited and The Grand Duke), neither of which was a great success. He also paired Sullivan with several other librettists, but none of the resulting operas were particularly successful. Carte's other new pieces for the Savoy in the 1890s had done no better. In Basil Hood, Sullivan finally found a congenial new collaborator, giving the Savoy its first significant success since the early 1890s. Sullivan worked together on the new piece, originally entitled Hassan, over the summer of 1899. Unlike W. S. Gilbert, Hood did not direct his own works, and the Savoy's stage manager, Richard Barker, acted as stage director. Costumes were designed by Percy Anderson. The casting of the soprano to play the leading role of the Sultana Zubedyah was problematic. Sullivan had been much impressed by the American high soprano Ellen Beach Yaw, and he prevailed upon the D'Oyly Carte Opera Company to cast her in the role. Leading soprano Ruth Vincent quit the company when she was passed over for the role (although she soon played the Sultana in New York). Sullivan wrote a special high cadenza for one of Yaw's songs, "'Neath My Lattice," to show off her extraordinary range. Yaw's first two nights were shaky, though the reviews were mixed, and both the music director, Francois Cellier, and Mrs. Carte advocated her replacement. Sullivan at first agreed, though writing in his diary on 2 December 1899, "I don’t quite see what it’s all about — Miss Yaw is not keeping people out of the theatre as Cellier and the Cartes imply." By 10 December, however, he wrote in his diary that Yaw was "improving rapidly" and "sang the song really superbly: brilliant. So I wrote again to Mrs. Carte saying that I thought if we let Miss Yaw go it would be another mistake." It was too late, however, and the next day Yaw was dismissed summarily by Mrs. Carte (ostensibly on account of illness). Isabel Jay was promoted to play the part. The first performance, on 29 November 1899, was a reassuring success – the first that the Savoy had enjoyed since Utopia Limited six years earlier. The piece played for a total of 211 performances, closing on 28 June 1900, and D'Oyly Carte touring companies soon were performing The Rose of Persia around the British provinces and then throughout the English-speaking world. In New York, it opened at Daly's Theatre on 6 September 1900, closing on 29 September 1900 after 25 performances. Ruth Vincent played the Sultana, Hassan was John Le Hay, the Sultan was Charles Angelo, and Yussuf was Sidney Bracy. After Rose proved to be a hit, Sullivan and Hood teamed up again, but the composer died, leaving their second collaboration, The Emerald Isle, unfinished. The Rose of Persia was Sullivan's last completed opera. Rose is firmly reminiscent of the style of the earlier Savoy successes, with its topsy-turvy plot, mistaken identities, the constant threat of executions, an overbearing wife, and a fearsome monarch who is fond of practical joking. Although critics found Hood inferior to Gilbert, his delight in comic word-play at times resembles the work of his great predecessor. With its episodic plot, its exotic setting, and its emphasis on dance numbers, Rose also takes a step towards musical comedy, which by 1899 was the dominant genre on the London stage. The only professional British revival of The Rose of Persia was at Princes Theatre in London from 28 February 1935 to 23 March 1935, closing after 25 performances. This immediately followed a successful revival of Merrie England by Hood and Edward German. The producer, R. Claude Jenkins, hoped to make the Princes the home of a series of British light opera, but the disappointing response to The Rose of Persia quashed these plans. In recent decades, interest in performing the work has revived among amateur and professional societies. The work has been seen several times at The International Gilbert and Sullivan Festival in Buxton, England (most recently in concert in 2008), and the Festival has a video of the 2008 performance available. The New York Gilbert and Sullivan Players performed the opera at New York City Center in January 2007. The St. David's Players of Exeter in the UK performed the piece in October 2009 having previously presented it in October 1990. The first recording of The Rose of Persia was released in 1963 by St. Albans Amateur Operatic Society. Another recording was made in 1985 by Prince Consort, and one was produced for BBC Music Magazine in 1999. Although the BBC recording is the most professionally produced, many fans prefer the earlier recordings.
Résumé: Hassan is a rich philanthropist who entertains beggar-men at his house, much to the dismay of his 25 wives. The Sultana, escaping the strict confines of the royal household, hides in Hassan's house with her three favourite slaves disguised as dancing girls. She is followed by the Sultan, who is bored with his obligations, accompanied by his three top officials. Hassan, while under the influence of the drug bhang, admits to the Sultan that the Sultana is in his house, thus compromising her life and his own. To punish Hassan (and to give himself a little holiday), the Sultan takes him to the palace and commands his court to treat Hassan as if he were sultan.
Création: 29/11/1899 - Savoy Theatre (Londres) - représ.
Musique: Arthur Sullivan • Paroles: Basil Hood • Livret: Basil Hood • Production originale: 0 version mentionnée
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Genèse: The Emerald Isle (1901) was the last score undertaken by Sir Arthur Sullivan, who died before completing it. It was begun after the success of The Rose of Persia (1899) and on the promise of a libretto of that opera's caliber, which had stimulated Sullivan as few had in a decade. Producer Richard D'Oyly Carte contracted Edward German to complete the score after Sullivan's death. German was well-known for his orchestral music, incidental music scores, ballads, and a few short operettas. His talents had been publicly acknowledged by Sullivan before the elder composer's death. Sullivan completed only the first two numbers in full score. Many of the rest he had sketched out. The untouched numbers are mostly solo material -- which he would have relied on the soloists to learn and execute quickly -- and the finale to act two -- which would have been a reprise, also easy to learn quickly. It would be nice to say that Sullivan's last work was, if not the culmination of a 30 year career in music, at least another jewel in what was already a rather stunning operatic crown. There are moments of musical inspiration, but in general the opera is tailor-made for Sullivan's talents, which remained for the most part unchallenged. Not that the score is devoid of some musical gems from Sullivan's pen. David Eden praises the "Da Luan, da mort" chorus and the solo and chorus that close the first act as reminiscent of "the dreamy melancholy of the Celtic feeling, profoundly felt, but remote and steeped in the past." One might add to these the trio "On the heights of Glauntaun." Eden also praises the act one finale ("Come away, sighs the fairy voice") as "quite simply the most beautiful tune of his [Sullivan's] career; it is as lovely as the Londonderry Air itself." The opening chorus offers neat juxtaposition of voices and dancing, and Sullivan's last double chorus appears later in the act (no. 12). There is also a "Rataplan" number to remind listeners of Cox and Box , the composer's first stage work. One of this author's favorite songs in the entire Sullivan canon is "Oh, have you met a man in debt" from act two, especially as sung so energetically by Alan Borthwick on Prince Consort's 1982 recording. But, in general Sullivan's contribution to the score is reminiscent rather than fresh. Though he may have captured a "Celtic feeling" once or twice, Sullivan (and Hood) seem content to provide plenty of jigs that are only stereotypically expressive of Ireland. "Sing a rhyme of Once upon a time" in act two must rank at the bottom of Sullivan's accomplishments, and one can only hope that if he had lived he would have improved it. Basil Hood was never able to produce a libretto as consistent as The Rose of Persia, though he continued to attempt to do so after The Emerald Isle. Hood's fondness for felicitous word-play is in full evidence in this opera, though it can become somewhat trying in some places. Also in evidence is Hood's liking for allowing his actors latitude to ad lib, as in the scene in act one involving the hypnotized soldier and the act two scene between the Sergeant and the Countess. Hood's story is tailor-made for the talents of the Savoy's turn-of-the-century team (soprano Isabel Jay, contralto Rosina Brandram, tenor Robert Evett, baritone Henry Lytton, comic Walter Passmore), each of whom is provided with challenging material either as actor or as singer. The conclusion, however, is weak, long in coming, and without the sparkle present even in a work like Ruddigore, whose logical and somewhat legalistic conclusion it resembles. The Emerald Isle holds the Savoy record for the most amount of dialogue between its penultimate number and the finale, dragging in as it does a long scene between the Sergeant and the Countess which includes a recitation in the Sergeant's thick Devonshire accent. The humor of such a scene must have been obvious in performance. The person who comes out best is Edward German, and The Emerald Isle marked him as a composer with a great future in comic opera. He didn't forget the traditions of the Savoy, and in some cases his music is purely imitative. The patter song "Imitation" resembles in meter King Gama's song in Princess Ida. Hood would repeat the meter as well as the general idea in his "Imagination" song in Merrie England, and German would respond with a similar patter tune. The contralto solo also resembles the dozen or so ballads set by Sullivan for Rosina Brandram. German broke no new ground here, and wouldn't do so in Merrie England or A Princess of Kensington -- though the expansive aria in the former is one of the best of the type. There are distinct stylistic differences between the two men, however. German frequently changed time signature during a movement (more prevalent in Merrie England) while Sullivan preferred to stay with the same meter. German was also seldom content to allow material to repeat without some vocal or orchestral variation (for example "'Twas in Hyde Park beside the Row") and in general his vocal lines are more challenging. Most of these characteristics attain full flower in later works, but their beginnings are apparent here. "Good-bye my native town," for example, is a song written as Sullivan never would, as is "I love you, I love you, what joy can compare" which follows immediately afterwards and "Listen! Hearken my lover!" earlier in the act. The soprano solo "Oh setting sun" is a precursor of stunning arias in Merrie England and Tom Jones . The Emerald Isle was produced after the death of Richard D'Oyly Carte, the moving force behind the Gilbert and Sullivan series and the owner and manager of the Savoy Theatre. The opera was produced by his wife Helen, and the management of the company was taken over by William Greet before the end of its 205-performance run. Greet also produced Hood and German's Merrie England (1902) and A Princess of Kensington (1903) and it seemed as if the promise of Gilbert and Sullivan had at last led to a successful comic opera team. But German wearied of Hood and turned to a new librettist and a new theatre for his next opera Tom Jones (1907). German's operatic stage career was cut short by the disastrous experience of Fallen Fairies (1909), the final libretto of W.S. (now Sir William) Gilbert. Thereafter, he devoted himself to orchestral music and conducting.
Résumé: A jolly spoof-Irish chorus introduces the hero, Terence O'Brien, an Irish patriot who, as he claims in song, is 'descended from Brian Boru'. But, alas, he speaks with an English accent, having been brought up in 'the luxurious lap of London'. He is not alone, however. All his countrymen now speak with an English accent for the English Viceroy has been giving elocution lessons in the infant schools and now there's not a man nor a colleen here that could dance an Irish jig correctly, and say 'Begorra' at the end of it with any conviction. To the village comes one Professor Bunn, 'Mesmerist, Ventriloquist, Humorist and General Illusionist, Shakespearian Reciter, Character Impersonator and Professor of Elocution. Children's Parties a Speciality'. He has been employed by the Lord Lieutenant for his re-education programme but offers to change sides and re-teach the Irish how to be precisely that. Terence is anxious to meet up with his sweetheart, Rosie, who is, unfortunately, none other than the daughter of the Lord Lieutenant. It is arranged that Terence shall hide out in the reputedly haunted caves of Carric-Cleena, and that Rosie shall come to him there. But Bunn notifies the Lord Lieutenant of their plans, and the Irish are obliged to find a subterfuge to keep the redcoats away. They decide that Molly, one of their number, shall appear as the fairy, Cleena, and Bunn as an ancient who has been held captive by her for fifty years, and thus they shall scare away the superstitious Devonshire soldiers. The first act ends with them bringing their trick off successfully. The second act carries on in much the same vein. Bunn goes through his paces, Terence and Rosie pursue their romance and Molly carries on with the hereditary 'blind' fiddler, Pat Murphy, who dares not confess his perfect sight for fear of losing her sympathy and love. When the Lord Lieutenant descends upon them all, Bunn succeeds in saving the 'rebels' by proclaiming: "If we had guessed (as we ought to have guessed) that you, being a scion of a noble English house, had so much American blood in your composition, we should not have rebelled against you. America is the friend of Ireland. You are an English nobleman. Therefore you are, nowadays, more than half American. Therefore you are our friend.. ."
Création: 27/4/1901 - Savoy Theatre (Londres) - 205 représ.
Musique: Arthur Sullivan • Paroles: George S. Kaufman • Livret: George S. Kaufman • Production originale: 1 version mentionnée
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George S. Kaufman’s adaptation of Gilbert and Sullivan’s H.M.S. Pinafore into a satiric look at the Hollywood studio system seemed like a sure thing.
Genèse: It opened on Broadway at the Alvin Theatre on May 31, 1945, and closed on July 14, 1945 after 52 performances. According to Howard Teichmann's 1972 biography George S. Kaufman: An Intimate Portrait, Kaufman had the inspiration for Hollywood Pinafore during a poker game with his friend Charles Lederer. While Lederer was arranging his cards, he idly sang a few bars of "When I Was a Lad" from Pinafore while ad-libbing a new lyric: "Oh, he nodded his head / and he never said 'no' / and now he's the head of the studio." Kaufman insisted on paying Lederer a token fee for the idea of transplanting Pinafore's setting to a Hollywood studio.
Résumé: Starlet Brenda Blossom, pining for a lowly writer, Ralph, is promised in marriage by her father (a director looking to advance his own career) to the studio head, Joseph Porter. If she marries Ralph, she'll be tossed out of Hollywood and forced to make a living on the stage. Everything turns out for the best when it is discovered that a mix-up in Louhedda Hopsons' gossip column was responsible for Ralph's fall from grace. In reality, it was Ralph who was meant to head the studio instead of Porter.
Création: 31/5/1945 - Neil Simon Theatre (Broadway) - 53 représ.