A Most Ingenious Paradox: The Art of Gilbert and Sullivan by Gayden Wren

By Gayden Wren

Written greater than a century in the past and first and foremost looked even via their creators as not anything greater than mild leisure, the fourteen operas of Gilbert & Sullivan emerged over the process the 20 th century because the world's most well liked physique of musical-theater works, rating moment merely to Shakespeare within the historical past of English-language theater. regardless of this resounding acceptance and confirmed durability, such a lot books written in regards to the duo have serious about the authors instead of the works. With this specific exam of all fourteen operas, Gayden Wren fills this void. His daring thesis reveals the most important to the operas' durability, now not within the shrewdpermanent lyrics, witty discussion, or catchy tune, yet within the crucial subject matters underlying the characters and tales themselves. Like Shakespeare's comedies, Wren indicates, the operas of Gilbert & Sullivan suffer as a result of their undying topics, which communicate 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 interpreting for any devotee of those enthralling works, or certainly for somebody who loves musical theater.

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Extra info for A Most Ingenious Paradox: The Art of Gilbert and Sullivan

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In one sense, this lack of continuity with future operas is surprising. After all, within the year its creators were to set to work on The Sorcerer, which in form and content is clearly a “rough draft” for the mature operas to come. But ultimately the lack of continuity simply reflects the different priorities at work in Trial by Jury and The Sorcerer. The latter is the work of prominent artists with a track record in the genre; they are taken seriously, and thus they take their work seriously. Trial by Jury, though its success made the greater aspirations of The Sorcerer possible, is the work of two relatively young men having fun with a genre that neither takes very seriously.

They weren’t trying to create a Savoy opera, and at this stage of their careers they didn’t know how to, either. The hallmarks of the Savoy operas would be respectful fidelity to the text, a minimum of performers’ self-indulgence, and a commitment to dramatic realism. These were and are the essential elements of any effective staging of the operas. But Thespis wouldn’t reward this approach. The text is rough and unrealistic, built on the concepts of improvisation, elaboration, and even 30 A Most Ingenious Paradox performers’ self-indulgence.

With Thespis and Trial by Jury they had been obliged to accommodate certain principal performers of exist- 40 A Most Ingenious Paradox ing companies, which chafed both men. With The Sorcerer, they were writing for actor/singers whom they themselves had chosen, whose attitudes and abilities perfectly matched what each man was looking for. 1 Gilbert & Sullivan were the true stars, and their artistic judgments were the sole criteria in casting—a unique idea for the time and one that contributed much to the success of the operas.

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