|The Gondoliers > 1907 Revival
The Gondoliers was undoubtedly an excellent choice when a successor to The Yeomen of the Guard was required. As a detail it followed that work in the original series, and its delicious merriment gives the best possible contrast to the quasi-tragic character of The Yeomen, which is to be given on alternate nights for the present with the work revived last night. Whether the same cast is to take part in both operas, is not quite clear; but if it is to be so, there can be no cause for wonder that the individual performers are not of higher eminence than they are. It is no doubt a good thing to follow the lead of the Court Theatre and to make the Savoy, so far as possible, a repertory theatre; but it is obvious that the fatigue incurred by an actor is as nothing compared with the vocal wear and tear of singing through an opera, particularly in Sullivan’s exacting soprano parts. The additional difficulty of singing two such parts on alternate nights might cause any vocalist to hesitate before undertaking the work at all. But perhaps some means will be found before long of getting over a problem which seems hardly as yet to have presented itself to the management.
The Gondoliers is unquestionably one of the very finest of the whole series; it contains, in “Take a pair of sparkling eyes,” and elsewhere, some of the most beautiful examples of Mr. Gilbert’s lyrical art, and perhaps the most felicitous thing that Sullivan ever penned, the quartet variations, “In a contemplative fashion.” The song, with the refrain “No possible doubt whatever,” and the quartet “A right down regular royal Queen” are among the things that have given phrases to the language, and that are certain to be greeted as old friends by everybody who hears them. While the gavotte in this second act is exquisitely graceful, the verve of the cachuca has some of the irresistible quality of Offenbach at his best, and the piece is in short so full of good points that it is impossible to enumerate them; and as a secondary detail, it does not “date” in the very least, and cannot begin to do so until the things satirized, such as the “Republican fallacies” of the two gondoliers, shall have ceased to exist.
Produced in December, 1889, and revived in March, 1898, the opera might seem to deserve more frequent revival than it has had. Still it must be remembered that it has been kept fresh in memory by the provincial companies that have toured the country with it as one of the chief attractions. It was the first of the series in which Mr. Grossmith did not take part, and as a successor to Mr. Denny of the first performance, and to Mr. Passmore of the revival, Mr. Clulow is more than satisfactory as the Grand Inquisitor. Mr. Richard Green succeeds Mr. Barrington and Mr. Henry Lytton, and, if he dances less well than either, his singing is better than theirs; when he is more familiar with the dialogue he will no doubt say his words more clearly than he did last night.
As the Duke of Plaza-Toro, Mr. Workman surpasses both his predecessors; his dancing is admirable, and his reading of the humours of the part is full of new points. From Mr. Courtice Pounds, through Mr. C. Kenningham, to Mr. Pacie Ripple, is rather a come-down, though the new Marco says his words in the right Gilbertian manner; for Miss Brandram, who appeared both in the production and the revival, we have only Miss Louie René.
There will never be quite such a whimsical Tessa as Miss Jessie Bond, but Miss Jessie Rose (who in the revival played the tiny part of one of the contadine) must seem delightful to those who never saw the original. Miss Coomber’s voice is of finer quality than those of her two predecessors, Misses Geraldine Ulmar and Emmie Owen, and in the part created by Miss Decima Moore, and taken up by Miss Ruth Vincent, Miss Marie Wilson made a remarkable success, looking charming, and singing with great taste and purity. Mr. Cellier was the conductor, and all went as smoothly as Savoy first nights are wont to do.
It will be remembered by all students of our stage that during the first run of The Gondoliers occurred the first “solution of continuity” which began the decadence of the Savoy as a national institution. It is a matter of history that the two illustrious collaborators, after various experiments with other composers and librettists, undertook work together once more; but the charm was broken, and the favour of the public was never wholly regained. We may be allowed to hope that the letter by Mr. Gilbert, which appeared in our columns yesterday, and in which he disclaimed taking any part in the revival save only that of stage manager, is not the beginning of another breach between him and the management. As the surviving member of the famous triumvirate, he has an authority to which no one else can possibly pretend; and everything should of course be done to obey his wishes in every detail. There could be no doubt as to the loyalty of the public to the veteran author last night, when his reception was most enthusiastic.
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