Devotees of the G&S canon will need no encouragement to catch the production, which opens Saturday at
"This is definitely one of Gilbert and Sullivan's best," says
It almost never materialized. Although the two
Sullivan wrote that comic opera had "become distasteful"; he wanted to work on something loftier, where the music would be "the first consideration," the words secondary. Gilbert's retort: "If we are to meet, it must be as master and master, not as master and servant."
Things were so testy that reconciliation seemed unlikely. But when the composer got his chance to write a grand opera, collaborating with a librettist Gilbert recommended, Sullivan softened his tone and decided he could do a comic piece as well. G&S were a team again. The result was "The Gondoliers."
"The Gondoliers" ran for 554 performances, just slightly fewer than "H.M.S. Pinafore" and not that far behind the number for "The Mikado," and was the first G&S work to be given a royal command performance for
It did not prove as popular across the ocean, though. American companies, used to raking in the bucks for any Gilbert and Sullivan show, nicknamed it "Gone Dollars."
But "Gondoliers" remains a gem of melodic invention and effervescent orchestration. The first 20 minutes or so are entirely sung, the only such case in the G&S repertoire; it seems as if Sullivan got his wish, after all, to put music first.
The plot revolves around two Venetian gondolier brothers,
The plot, spiced by an impoverished Spanish duke and duchess, a grand inquisitor and an old woman with a secret, bubbles along from sparking number to sparkling number. The text takes some gentle potshots at politics and society, but this is not a deeply satirical work.
"It's the sunniest and most ebullient of all the Gilbert and Sullivan works," says
Joining the Young Vic chorus will be a cast that includes
Like Gilbert and Sullivan troupes elsewhere in the country, the Young Vic is aiming to attract new, younger audiences.
"When this company was founded in 1971, the people in their 30s and 40s who came were raised on Gilbert and Sullivan; they're now in their 70s and 80s," Goodman says. "How do we bring this art form to the
"The Gondoliers" will be performed over the next two weekends at
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