Read e-book online A Most Ingenious Paradox: The Art of Gilbert and Sullivan PDF

By Gayden Wren

Written greater than a century in the past and firstly looked even via their creators as not anything greater than gentle leisure, the fourteen operas of Gilbert & Sullivan emerged over the process the 20th century because the world's most well liked physique of musical-theater works, score moment purely to Shakespeare within the heritage of English-language theater. regardless of this resounding recognition and confirmed toughness, so much books written concerning the duo have thinking about the authors instead of the works. With this particular exam of all fourteen operas, Gayden Wren fills this void. His daring thesis unearths the foremost to the operas' toughness, no longer within the shrewdpermanent lyrics, witty discussion, or catchy tune, yet within the crucial topics underlying the characters and tales themselves. Like Shakespeare's comedies, Wren exhibits, the operas of Gilbert & Sullivan undergo as a result of their undying issues, which converse to audiences as powerfully now as they did the 1st time they have been played. Written out of an abiding love for the Savoy operas, this quantity is key analyzing for any devotee of those enthralling works, or certainly for somebody who loves musical theater.

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After Trial by Jury their operas would be increasingly ambitious, ultimately crafting an entirely new way of combining the serious and the satiric in a musicaltheater format. With Trial by Jury the context is wholly different. Composed and rehearsed in only a few weeks, it is a goof, a bit of tomfoolery meant solely to amuse. In expanding his one-page comic poem, first published in Fun in 1868, into a stageable-length work (originally intended as a curtainraiser for the Carl Rosa Opera Company’s English premiere of Wagner’s Lohengrin),1 Gilbert feels no pressure to earn a place in the theatrical pantheon of the day, any more than Sullivan, in setting it, feels obliged to produce work worthy of England’s greatest composer.

Brevity produces clarity. In a full-length show, both men probably would have been seduced into trying to do more than they were capable of doing. Flowery language would mar the clean lines of the show, the recitatives would be drawn out, extra characters would muddle the story, thematic considerations would be introduced, “serious” music would dilute the wittiness of the score. The show might have more high points, but it would also be encumbered by more conventional boilerplate. It would, in short, resemble Thespis or The Sorcerer.

His degree of interest can be judged from an 1887 diary entry, recounting Gilbert’s presentation of a proposed new opera (the socalled lozenge plot, which was never set by Sullivan): At night Gilbert read me a scenario for proposed new piece. Clear, but I think very weak dramatically; there seems no “go” in it. The 1st Act promises to lead to something, but that something doesn’t appear in the 2nd Act, which is the old story over again of whimsical fancies and subtle argument, but it is a “puppet-show,” and not human.

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