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Sunday Afternoon at the Opera - Gilbert & Sullivan: Princess Ida

07/30/2017 1:00 pm
07/30/2017 4:30 pm


Sunday Afternoon at the Opera host Keith Brown writes:

This is usually the Sunday on which I present one or another of the comic operas of William S. Gilbert and Sir Arthur Sullivan. I have broadcast Princess Ida (1884) twice before. Coming between Iolanthe and The Mikado, it belongs to the period when the powers of composer and librettist were at their zenith. Strangely, Gilbert wrote the playbook for this operetta in blank verse, and it has three acts, as opposed to the expected two. Gilbert contrived a satire on Tennyson's poem The Princess, incorporating his own wry commentary on the Victorian movement for women's emancipation and education.

On Sunday, July 27, 2003 I drew upon an old Decca/London LP set. It preserves a classic 1965 stereo recording of Princess Ida with Sir Malcolm Sargent directing the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra and the cast and chorus of the D'Oyly Carte Opera Company, who have long been the internationally recognized guardians of the G & S canon, as directly passed down to them from impresario Richard D'Oyly Carte through his daughter Bridget. Nobody has a lock on that canon, however, since amateur lyric theater companies of considerable talent all over the world perform these works, like our own Simsbury Light Opera Company. (The renowned Savoyard Martyn Green coached them at the very end of his career.)

On a more professional level, the Ohio Light Opera Company staged Princess Ida in the Summer of 1999. Founded in 1979, OLOC is the resident theatrical institution at the College of Wooster (Ohio), a school with a strong emphasis on the performing arts. Newport Classics released the recording of that production on two CDs in 2000. This recording is the first to include all of Gilbert's witty dialog. The classic Decca/London release had no dialog at all. I last broadcast the Newport Classics CDs on Sunday, July 29, 2007.