Sunday, February 6, 2011

Opera 101—The Yeomen of the Guard

I have a song to sing, O
Sing me your song, O
It is sung to the moon by a love-lorn loon
Who fled from the mocking throng-o

It's the song of a merry man moping mum
Whose soul was sad and his glance was glum
Who sipped no sup and who craved no crumb
As he sighed for the love of a lady

Hey-di, hey-di, misery me, lack-a-day-de
He sipped no sup and he craved no crumb
As he sighed for the love of a lady

Last night, I saw an excellent production of The Yeomen of the Guard (or The Merryman and His Maid) by the Lamplighters Music Theatre. I am a big Gilbert & Sullivan fan and am always happy to see their works performed live (except for Jonathan Miller’s Mikado, which I really, really would love to erase from my memory à la Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind).

While Yeomen is certainly not the most popular of the Savoy Operas, it was the favorite of both W. S. Gilbert and Arthur Sullivan, a pair who famously agreed on very little. It is also considered to be their most “operatic” work, both in terms of its score and its sentiment, which is darker than their usual topsy-turvy stories. In fact, it is from this opera that Gilbert chose the words for Sullivan’s memorial next to the Savoy Theatre.

Is life a boon?
If so, it must befall
That Death, whene’er he call
Must call too soon.

The Lamplighters brought out the lighter touches in the relatively serious subject, but I was happy to see that their singing did the work justice. I particularly enjoyed Amy Foote as Elsie Maynard and F. Lawrence Ewing as Jack Point, who had the daunting task of singing one of the most beloved duets in the Gilbert & Sullivan repertoire (quoted above). Behrend Eilers as Wilfred Shadbolt also stood out for me. Really, there was no weak link, although perhaps Kathryn Schumacher as Dame Carruthers lacked a bit of gravitas in her voice. I can’t remember who played Ruth in The Pirates of Penzance this past summer, but I remember thinking her voice was a bit too deep, so I would have happily switched them. In any case, this performance really cemented my good opinion of this company and I look forward to finally being able to see productions that for years I have only been able to listen to.

Yeomen is the Lamplighters second production of the 2010-2011 season, the first being The Pirates of Penzance (or The Slave of Duty), which I saw in August before starting this blog. They will close their season with the little-known Trial by Jury, the earliest existing Gilbert & Sullivan collaboration, on a double bill with the W.S. Gilbert play Engaged. The 2011-2012 season will include both H.M.S. Pinafore (or The Lass That Loved A Sailor) and The Gondoliers (or The King of Barataria).

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Oh, I'm glad to hear it's good! It's my favorite G&S show (well, I have many favorites, but I think it's the best show, book-wise), and I've wanted to see it. Maybe I'll make it out there.