William Schwenk Gilbert (1836-1911) and Arthur Sullivan(1842-1900)
Iolanthe (or The Peer and the Peri)
\...Nothing, I thought, could have been happier than themanner in which the comic strain of the piece was blended with its harmonies ofsight and sound, so good in taste from beginning to end."
(Gladstone's letter to Sullivan, December 1882)
Although a noted amateur of literary genius, the politicalsatire in Iolanthe may have eluded Queen Victoria's Prime Minister. Afteralready parodying holders of high office - the navy (in Pinafore and Pirates),the Aesthetic Movement (in Patience) and jurisprudence (in Trial By Jury)- inGilbert's ingenious new libretto Sullivan had found another sure vehicle forcaricature of the British peerage, not least Captain Shaw, the Chief of theLondon Fire Brigade. Continuing the popular 'fairy' genre he had alreadyexploited in such pre-Sullivan farces and burlesques as The Palace of Truth(1870), The Happy Land (1873) and Fogerty's Fairy (1881), Gilbert transferredthe House of Lords to fairyland. The result, a new kind of feerie opera mademore atmospheric by the new innovation of electric light. Iolanthe was thefirst G&S work to be staged in D'Oyly Carte's newly-built Savoy Theatre, on25th November 1882, under the composer's baton) where it ran for 398performances. Opened on the same night on Broadway under the conductor AlfredCellier, over the years it enjoyed various successful resurrections and wouldremain a favourite with New York audiences (notably in 1926 with 355performances) as well as in Australia and other British colonies. At Sadler'sWells, in 1962, it was the first Savoy work to be awarded a large-scale Londonproduction and in 1987 was the opera chosen to launch the revamped D'Oyly CarteOpera Co. One of the most musically integrated and fluent of the Savoy operascores, in its use and development of recurring musical themes Iolanthe is, asArthur Jacobs observed "...the work in which Sullivan's operetta style takes adefinite step forward".
The wife of D'Oyly Carte conductor Isidore Godfrey and astalwart in G&S contralto r?â??les, Ann Drummond Grant (1904-1959) began hercareer as a soprano in opera, both amateur and professional, prior to joiningthe D'Oyly Carte chorus in 1933. A member of the company for five years, during1938 her r?â??les included Patience, The Plaintiff (in Trial By Jury), Josephine(in Pinafore), Aline (in The Sorcerer), Fiametta (in Gondoliers) and Elsie (inYeomen) and Celia and Phyllis in Iolanthe. Later, she branched into operetta(appearing notably in Waltzes From Vienna) and also sang in summer seasons butin 1950 she returned to D'Oyly Carte, where she assumed the leading contraltorepertoire previously sung by Ella Halman.
Born William Martyn-Green in London, Martyn Green(1899-1975) studied singing first with his father, the distinguished Englishtenor William Green, and later with Gustave Garcia (1837-1925) at the RoyalCollege of Music. After active service during the First World War, he gainedhis first stage experience in 1919, in musical comedy on Daly's Theatrecircuit. Green joined the D'Oyly Carte as a chorister and understudy in 1922and his solo debut, as Luiz in Gondoliers, was followed by other comic leadsincluding John Wellington Wells (in The Sorcerer), Major Murgatroyd (inPatience), the Major-General (in Pirates), The Associate (in Trial By Jury) andThe Lord Chancellor in Iolanthe. His masterly portrayal of Ko-Ko The Lord HighExecutioner in The Mikado is preserved in the 1939 Technicolor screenadaptation by Geoffrey Toye and in the 1950 Decca studio recording (Naxos8.110176-77). After service in the RAF during the Second World War, he returnedin 1946 to D'Oyly Carte to sing comic leads until 1951. Thereafter, he touredthe United States, performing and directing as well as lecturing on the SavoyOperas. Martyn Green appeared on American TV (his was the voice of the fox inthe cartoon Pinocchio) and on Broadway as Chaucer in the Richard Hill-JohnHawkins musical Canterbury Tales. He died in Hollywood, California.
At first an amateur singer in his native London, LeonardOsborn worked as a chemist in a silk-printing mill before joining theprofessional chorus of D'Oyly Carte in the mid-1930s. After his debut in asmall part in Yeomen in 1937, he had by 1939 sung the defendant (in Trial ByJury), Francesco (in Gondoliers) and Leonard Merrill (in Yeomen). An RAFflight-lieutenant during the second World War, in 1946 Osborn returned toD'Oyly Carte where, until his retirement in 1959, his many r?â??les included theDuke of Dunstable (in Patience), Fairfax (in Yeomen), Ralph (in Pinafore),Frederick (in Pirates), Marco in Gondoliers and Earl Tolloller in Iolanthe.
Eric Thornton joined D'Oyly Carte in 1950. During his firstseason with the company he played Bouncer (in Cox And Box), the Learned Judge(in Trial By Jury), Captain Corcoran (in Pinafore), Luiz (in Gondoliers) andLord Mountararat in Iolanthe. The following year he sang the Pirate King andSir Roderic (in Ruddigore) and from 1952 onwards worked with touring G&Scompanies in Australia.
Fisher Morgan joined D'Oyly Carte in 1950 and remained amember of the company until 1956. His r?â??les included Bouncer (in Cox And Box),the Learned Judge (in Trial By Jury), the Sergeant (in Pirates), Don Alhambra(in Gondoliers), Pooh-Bah (in Mikado), King Hildebrand (in Princess Ida), SirDespard (in Ruddigore) and Private Willis in Iolanthe. Fisher Morgan died inJanuary 1959.
Alan Styler was born in Redditch in Worcestershire. A keensemi-professional baritone in his youth, at seventeen he was a Grenadier Guardand served in the British Army during the Second World War. In 1947 he joinedthe D'Oyly Carte where, until his retirement in 1968, he sang a variety ofprincipal r?â??les, including Captain Corcoran (in Pinafore), Samuel (in Pirates),the Lieutenant (in Yeomen) and Strephon in Iolanthe.
After joining the D'Oyly Carte Chorus in 1937, Ella Halmanremained with the company until 1951, singing a variety of r?â??les, includingLady Jane (in Patience), Katisha (in Mikado), Ruth (in Pirates), the Duchess(in Gondoliers) and the Queen of the Fairies in Iolanthe.
Margaret Mitchell joined the D'Oyly Carte chorus in 1943 andplayed her first principal r?â??le, the fairy Fleta in Iolanthe the followingyear. Her G&S repertoire included Patience, Edith (in Pirates), Ella (inPatience), Yum-Yum (in Mikado), Kate (in Yeomen), Casilda (in Gondoliers), RoseMaybud (in Ruddigore) and Phyllis in Iolanthe.
After the Overture  the curtain rises on an idyllicArcadian setting. The fairies, led by Leila, Celia and Fleta, sing as theydance about the rustic bridge that crosses the stream . They recount how, 25years previously, Iolanthe was banished by the Fairy Queen to the bed of thestream for having married a mortal. The Fairy Queen now enters and, yielding tothe Fairies' intercession,