News Column

Savoyards' 'Princess Ida' promises royal laughs

July 27, 2014

By Gayle Worland, The Wisconsin State Journal

July 27--The Madison Savoyards website carries an important warning: Gilbert and Sullivan can be addictive.

That's certainly the case for members of the Savoyards, an all-volunteer company that has been producing Gilbert and Sullivan comic operas since 1963. This year's production is "Princess Ida," performed at Music Hall on the UW-Madison campus through Aug. 3.

Adapted from Alfred Tennyson's epic poem "The Princess," "Princess Ida" is set in medieval Europe. And it's filled with plenty of trademark Gilbert and Sullivan humor; the tale includes an old-fashioned battle-of-the-sexes complete with sword fights, plot twists, silly gender-switching costumes and songs both amusing and poignant.

"I really do feel it's appealing to everyone, not just opera or music fans," said Audrey Wax, the show's director. "The story is very easy to follow, with exciting plot twists."

Wax, an instructor in theater arts at Edgewood College, has been hooked on Gilbert and Sullivan's "beautiful, charming, comedic" operettas since graduate school, she said. When Madison Savoyards sought her out to direct this year's production, she gladly agreed.

"The company is highly thought of in the community," she said. For "Princess Ida," Wax has "stepped up the choreography, to really add elements of dance and have less static staging, so the audience is constantly being entertained."

Soprano Naiza Delica, who most recently performed with Milwaukee'sSkylight Musical Theatre, plays the title role of Princess Ida. UW-Madison senior William Ottow plays her romantic counterpart, Prince Hilarion. The cast includes more than 30 members from the Madison area, and some from as far as Kenosha and Milwaukee.

Though they lived in Victorian-era England, the London-born librettist W. S. Gilbert and the composer Arthur Sullivan formed a collaboration that still influences musical theater today. The two men created 14 comic operas between 1871 and 1896, including "H.M.S. Pinafore," "The Pirates of Penzance," and "The Mikado."

"Princess Ida," their eighth collaboration, premiered in 1884 at the Savoy Theatre in London. It is the only Gilbert and Sullivan opera written in three acts and with blank verse dialogue, and was previously staged by Madison Savoyards in 1999, 1980 and 1967.


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Source: Wisconsin State Journal (Madison, WI)

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