|The Gondoliers > 1909 Revival
No stronger argument in favour of the employment of English as an operatic language could be imagined than is regularly supplied at the Savoy Theatre; nor could any better instance be found of its fitness for music than The Gondoliers, which contains so many of Sir William Gilbert’s best lyrics and some of Sir Arthur Sullivan’s loveliest music. Perhaps nothing more conclusively proves his real greatness and originality then the quartet-variations, “In a contemplative fashion,” which many people would be inclined to name as the highest achievement in the genre the two collaborators invented. If only some of our other real poets – for Sir William Gilbert is surely not the only “right down, regular, royal” poet alive in England today – would turn their attention to the writing of words for operas this position would be won, and there would be no danger of our ever going back.
The revival comes so soon after the last revival of the work that many of its features are the same. Mr. Workman is again the Duke of Plaza-Toro and Miss Louie René his duchess; Miss Jessie Rose, who is ripening into a satisfactory follower of Miss Jessie Bond, appears as before in the part of Tessa. Mr. Henry Herbert and Mr. H. A. Lytton are almost as good a pair of gondoliers as can be conceived, and their execution of the duet in which they sing alternate syllables “as one individual” is so clever that the ear would easily accept them as one. Mr. Lytton’s method and that of some of the other characters is so nearly of the true Savoy stamp that one would be inclined to think the performance as good as ever, were it not that Mr. Rutland Barrington shows what the genuine Savoy method is in its perfection. He has relinquished his old part of Giuseppe and taken that of the Grand Inquisitor, which fits him like a glove. His affability, dignity, condescension, and joie de vivre – we know the Inquisitor goes and sees a Goldoni comedy every evening of his life – make him stand out from among all the rest as the brightest spot in the revival. A special delight is his pronunciation of the word “Cordova” when he refers to the brigand husband of Inez. Mr. Leo Sheffield is a very capable Luiz, and the two soprano parts are adequately sung, that of Casilda by Miss Dorothy Court – who makes a good effect in the lovely duet “Oh! bury, bury” – and that of Gianetta by Miss Elsie Spain, whose powerful voice is not without charm. We hope that these two ladies will soon acquire the special art of speaking with the distinctness that marks the true Savoyard, an art in which Mr. Herbert is making progress with each revival.
Mr. F. Cellier, of course, conducts; and last night there were more demands for encores than even he could grant.
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