KING OF THE COMIC OPERA

Tomorrow (November 18) being the 184th birthday of librettist W.S. GILBERT, it gives me the opportunity to pay full tribute to his half of the foremost comic opera writing team in history, GILBERT & SULLIVAN. What musically literate person doesn’t delight in such glorious operettas as H.M.S PINAFORE and THE PIRATES OF PENZANCE! But I begin with this title-of-post appropriate song from THE GONDOLIERS:

I have long owned a book published in 1941 titled A TREASURY OF GILBERT & SULLIVAN by Deems Taylor. In the introduction, Taylor tells of the first G & S collaboration, “a highly unsuccessful operetta, produced in 1871, for which Gilbert had written the libretto and Sullivan composed the music. The piece was not even published, but it turned out to be the first of a series of fourteen, of which eleven, at least, have served to make the trademark “Gilbert and Sullivan” as nearly immortal as any two names in the history of operetta can hope to be.”

“The “and” in Gilbert and Sullivan is important; for it is what made the whole greater than the sum of its parts. Gilbert, as a playwright, without Sullivan, was a prolific writer of farces and pompous Victorian dramas, none of which was particularly successful even in its day. Sullivan, without Gilbert, was the creator of a mass of “serious” music which was, at its best, highly watered Mendelssohn. But the two as a team –ah, that is a different matter. Gilbert was fatally handicapped as a serious dramatist by the heavy veil of Victorian moralism. As a librettist, he need not be concerned with the moralities, since the creatures of the operettas were never real people. He had a chance to give free rein to the mordant wit that was one of his greatest gifts.”

And with that, let us turn to selections from the first two of the above-named operettas, inasmuch as like an evergreen dream, that is what I am pining for (or, punning for — to be aboveboard about it):

And now, me hearties, we wander on to THE PIRATES OF PENZANCE….

I trust you found this posting most enjoyable;
If not, your antipathy is most egregible.
I expect such attitude is the very epitome of ephemeral,
Otherwise you are the very model of a modern Minor Execrable.