SULLIVAN: The Gondoliers

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William Schwenk Gilbert (1836-1911) and Arthur Sullivan (1842-1900)

The Gondoliers

"… this brightest of operas".

(The Sunday Times, December, 1889)

Ever since its first appearance at the tail-end of 1889, The Gondoliers or The King of Barataria has held its place among the more engagingly operatic of the Savoy Operas. Vocally demanding on the one hand, it is a model of its kind, which to some extent also harks back to Gilbert and Sullivan’s earlier essays in burlesque. Arranged in two acts and set appealingly against a circa-1750 Venetian backdrop, it was the last great success of its creators before their famous quarrel. Following chronologically on the heels of Ruddigore (1887) and Yeomen of the Guard (1888), it was given its first airing on 7th December 1889 in London at the Savoy, where it enjoyed a healthy initial run of 554 performances. It also ran, for a time concurrently, another 103 on Broadway and while, like its predecessor The Mikado, it met with a more short-lived success as Der Gondoliere in both Vienna and Berlin, in Australia, under the auspices of J.C. Williamson’s company, it was to prove, both in its first production and in subsequent revivals spanning several decades, as firm a favourite as previously in England.

Among the most frequently recorded of all the Gilbert and Sullivan operettas, in both complete and abridged selections during the pre-1925 acoustic period and for the first time electrically, by HMV, in 1927, its solos have remained staples in the concert repertoires of, particularly, sopranos and tenors. In December 1968, after the G&S copyrights were relaxed, the work was revived by Scottish Opera and later re-assumed by Sadler’s Wells (1984) and, more recently still, toured by the reformed D’Oyly Carte companies. It has consistently been welcomed by Savoyards as "a good sing"; while in diverse ways the entire opera is a departure from earlier G&S works, its innovative opening scene, a through-composed fifteen-minute operatic ensemble sequence shorn of dialogue, establishes the pattern for what is to follow.

Martyn Green

Born William Martyn-Green in London on 22nd April, 1899, Martyn Green studied singing first with his father, the distinguished English tenor William Green and later with Gustave García (1837-1925) at the Royal College of Music. After active service during the First World War, he gained his first stage experience in 1919 touring the Daly’s Theatre circuit in musical comedy. Green joined the D’Oyly Carte as a chorister and understudy in 1922 and his solo début as Luiz in The Gondoliers was followed by other comic leads, including John Wellington Wells in The Sorcerer, Major Murgatroyd in Patience, the Major-General in Pirates of Penzance, The Associate in Trial by Jury and the Duke of Plaza-Toro in The Gondoliers. His masterly portrayal of the title-rôle in The Mikado is preserved in the 1939 Technicolor screen adaptation by Geoffrey Toye and in a 1950 Decca studio recording he sang Ko-Ko the Lord High Executioner, his other great characterisation from that operetta. After service in the RAF during the Second World War, he returned in 1946 to D’Oyly Carte to sing comic leads until 1951. Thereafter, he toured the United States, performing and directing as well as lecturing on the Savoy Operas. Martyn Green appeared on American TV (his was the voice of the fox in the cartoon Pinocchio) and on Broadway as Chaucer in the Richard Hill-John Hawkins musical Canterbury Tales. He died in Hollywood, California, on 8th February 1975.

Richard Watson

Notwithstanding his close ties with G&S, the career of bass Richard Watson was more generalised. Born in 1906 in Adelaide, Southern Australia, where he studied initially at the Elder Conservatory, he was from 1926 until 1929 a vocal student at the London Royal College of Music. In 1929 he joined Covent Garden’s resident opera company and by 1933 was appearing in both its English and international seasons. Already a popular soloist on the British oratorio circuit and on radio and gramophone recordings (for Decca), later that year Watson left Covent Garden to join D’Oyly Carte and until 1937 also toured regularly with J.C. Williamson in Australia and New Zealand. In 1937 he resumed his career at Covent Garden but in 1940 returned again to Australia where he gave recitals for the Australian Broadcasting Corporation and again undertook principal rôles on tour with J. C. Williamson. From 1944 he taught singing at the Elder Conservatory and produced operas at the Tivoli in Adelaide financed by the ABC. From 1946 until 1951 Watson was again principal bass with D’Oyly Carte both in London and the United States, most notably in New York, and was during this period a featured lead in several Decca hi-fi recordings of G&S operas, including The Mikado (Pooh-Bah) and The Gondoliers (Don Alhambra). From 1951 until 1955 he was Director of the Regina Conservatory of Music in Saskatchewan in Canada, before returning to Southern Australia for further tours with J.C. Williamson.

Leonard Osborn

At first an amateur singer in his native London, Leonard Osborn worked as a chemist in a silk-printing mill before joining the professional chorus of D’Oyly Carte in the mid-1930s. After his début in a small part in Yeomen of the Guard in 1937, he had by 1939 sung the defendant in Trial by Jury, Francesco in The Gondoliers and Leonard Merrill (in Yeomen). An RAF flight-lieutenant during the second World War, in 1946 Osborn returned to D’Oyly Carte where, until his retirement in 1959, his many rôles included Tolloller in Iolanthe, the Duke of Dunstable in Patience, Fairfax in Yeomen, Ralph in HMS Pinafore, Frederick in Pirates and Marco in The Gondoliers.

Alan Styler

Alan Styler was born in Redditch in Worcestershire. A keen semi-professional baritone in his youth, he was a Grenadier Guard at seventeen and served in the British Army during the Second World War. In 1947 he joined the D’Oyly Carte where, until his retirement in 1968, he sang a variety of principal rôles, including Captain Corcoran in HMS Pinafore, Samuel in Pirates, the Lieutenant in Yeomen and Giuseppe in The Gondoliers.

Radley Flynn

Radley Flynn joined the D’Oyly Carte in 1928 and sang with the Company for a total of 23 years. He made his solo début during his first season as Giorgio in The Gondoliers and his many subsequent rôles included Dick Deadeye in HMS Pinafore, the Mikado, the Pirate King and the Usher in Trial by Jury. Flynn was married to the contralto Ella Halman.

Ella Halman

After joining the D’Oyly Carte Chorus in 1937, Ella Halman remained with the Company until 1951, singing a variety of rôles, including Lady Jane in Patience, Katisha in The Mikado, Ruth in Pirates and the Duchess in The Gondoliers.

Muriel Harding

A D’Oyly Carte Chorus-member from 1945, before she left the Company in 1954, Muriel Harding’s bright, evenly-produced high soprano voice was heard in a variety of rôles, including the Plaintiff in Trial by Jury, Mabel in Pirates, Lady Ella in Patience, Kate in Yeomen, Zorah in Ruddigore, the title-rôle in Princess Ida and Gianetta in The Gondoliers.



CD 1

Act I

After an alternately graceful and hurtling Overture which pre-echoes the operetta’s main tunes [1], Act 1 opens on the Piazzetta in Venice, where a group of 24 local girls (contadine) are binding posies for the ‘gondolier
Disc: 1
The Gondoliers
1 Act 1: Overture
2 Act 1: List and learn
3 Act 1: Good morrow pretty maids
4 Act 1: For the merriest fellows are we
5 Act 1: See see at last / Buongiorno, Signorine!
6 Act 1: We're called gondolieri
7 Act 1: And now to choose our brides
8 Act 1: Thank you gallant gondolieri
9 Act 1: From the sunny Spanish shore
10 Act 1: In enterprise of marital kind
11 Act 1: O rapture, when alone together
12 Act 1: DUET: These was a time
13 Act 1: I stole the prince
14 Act 1: But bless my heart / QUINTET: Try we life l
15 Act 1: Bridegroom and bride!
16 Act 1: When a merry maiden marries
17 Act 1: Kind Sir you cannot have the heart
18 Act 1: Do not give way
19 Act 1: Then one of us will be a queen
20 Act 1: Replying we sing
21 Act 1: For everyone who feels inclined
22 Act 1: Come let's away
23 Act 1: Now Marco dear my wishes hear
24 Act 1: Then away we go
Disc: 2
The Gondoliers
1 Act 2: Of happiness the very pith
2 Act 2: Rising early in the morning
3 Act 2: Take a pair of sparkling eyes
4 Act 2: Here we are, at the risk of our lives / Aft
5 Act 2: Dance a Cachucha
6 Act 2: There lived a king
7 Act 2: In a contemplative fashion
8 Act 2: With ducal pomp
9 Act 2: On the day when I was wedded
10 Act 2: To help unhappy commoners / Small titles an
11 Act 2: I am a courtier grave and serious
12 Act 2: Here is a case unprecedented!
13 Act 2: Now let the loyal lieges gather round / FIN
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