George P. (George Putnam) Upton.

The standard operas: their plots, their music, and their composers online

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unites his fortunes with those of Little Buttercup.

It is one of the principal charms of this delightful work
that it is entirely free from coarseness and vulgarity. The
wit is always delicate, though the satire is keen. Words


and music rarely go so well together as in this opera. As a
prominent English critic said of " Trial by Jury," " it seems,
as in the great Wagnerian operas, as though poem and
music had proceeded simultaneously from one and the
same brain." The chorus plays a very important part in
it, and in the most solemnly ludicrous manner repeats the
assertions of the principals in the third person. All its
numbers might be styled the leading ones, but those which
have become most popular are the song " I 'm called Little
Buttercup " ; Josephine's sentimental song (" Sorry her Lot
who loves too well "), one of the few serious numbers in the
opera ; Sir Joseph Porter's song (" I am the Monarch of
the Sea "), with its irresistible choral refrain (" And so are his
Sisters and his Cousins and his Aunts, his Sisters and his
Cousins, whom he reckons by the Dozens "), leading up to
the satirical song "When I was a Lad, I served a Term" ;
the stirring trio (" A British Tar is a soaring Soul ") ; Cap-
tain Corcoran's sentimental ditty (" Fair Moonfto thee I
sing ") ; Josephine's scena (" The Hours creep on apace "),
with its mock heroic recitative ; Dick Deadeye's delightful
song (" The merry Maiden and the Tar ") ; the pretty octet
and chorus ("Farewell, my own") ; Little Buttercup's leg-
end (" A many Years ago, when I was young and charm-
ing ") ; and the choral finale (" Then give three Cheers and
one Cheer more ").

The Pirates of Penzance

" The Pirates of Penzance ; or, the Slave of Duty," comic
opera, text by Gilbert, was first produced in New York,
December 31, 1879, an( ^ m England at the Opera Comique,
London, April 3, 1880. "The Pirates of Penzance" has a
local interest from the fact that it was first produced under
the immediate supervision of both Mr. Sullivan and Mr.
Gilbert. When the composer left England he had only
finished the second act, and that was without orchestration.


After his arrival here he wrote the first act and scored
the entire opera. By this performance the profits of the
representations in this country were secured. The work
was not published until after their return to England.

At the opening of the opera it is disclosed that Frederic,
when a boy, in pursuance of his father's orders, was to have
been apprenticed to a pilot until his twenty-first year, but
by the mistake of his nurse-maid, Ruth, he was bound out
to one of the pirates of Penzance, who were celebrated for
their gentleness and never molested orphans because they
were orphans themselves. In the first scene the pirates
are making merry, as Frederic has reached his majority and
is about to leave them and seek some other occupation.
Upon the eve of departure Ruth requests him to marry her,
and he consents, as he has never seen any other woman,
but shortly afterwards he encounters the daughters of Gen-
eral Stanley, falls in love with Mabel, the youngest, and
denounces Ruth as a deceiver. The pirates encounter the
girls about the same time, and propose to marry them, but
when the General arrives and announces that he also is an
orphan, they relent and allow the girls to go.

The second act opens in the General's ancient baronial
hall, and reveals him surrounded by his daughters, lament-
ing that he has deceived the pirates by calling himself an
orphan. Frederic appears, and bids Mabel farewell, as he
is about to lead an expedition for the extermination of the
pirates. While he is alone, the Pirate King and Ruth visit
him and show him the papers which bound him to them.
It is stated in them that he is bound " until his twenty-first
birthday," but as his birthday is the 29th of February, he
has had but five. Led by his strong sense of duty, he
decides that he will go back to his old associates. Then
he tells them of the General's orphan story, which so en-
rages them that they swear vengeance. They come by night
to carry off the General, but are overpowered by the police


and sent to prison, where they confess they are English
noblemen. Upon promising to give up their piratical
career, they are pardoned, and this releases Frederic.

The principal numbers in the first act are Ruth's song
(" When Frederic was a little Lad ") ; the Pirate King's
song (" Oh ! better far to live and die ") ; Frederic's senti-
mental song (" Oh ! is there not one Maiden Breast ") ;
Mabel's reply (" Poor wandering One ") ; and the descrip-
tive song of the General (" I am the very Pattern of a mod-
ern Major-General "), which reminds one of Sir Joseph's
song "When I was a Lad, I served a Term," in " Pinafore,"
and Wells's song, " Oh ! my Name is John Wellington
Wells," in " The Sorcerer." The second act opens with
a chorus of the daughters and solo by Mabel (" Dear Father,
why leave your Bed ? "). The remaining most popular num-
bers are the " Tarantara " of the Sergeant ; the Pirate King's
humorous chant (" For some ridiculous Reason '") ; Mabel's
ballad (" Oh, leave me not to pine "), and the Sergeant's
irresistible song (" When a Fellow 's not engaged in his
Employment "), which has become familiar as a household
word by frequent quotation.


" Patience ; or, Bunthorne's Bride," comic opera in two
acts, text by Gilbert, was first produced at the Opera
Comique, London, April 23, 188 1, with the following cast:

Patience Leonora Braham.

Bunthorne Mr. Grossmith.

Jane Alice Barnett.

Archibald R. Barrington.

The opera of " Patience " is a pungent satire upon the
fleshly school of poetry as represented by Oscar Wilde and
his imitators, as well as upon the fad for aesthetic cul-
ture which raged so violently a quarter of a century ago.



Bunthorne, in one of his soliloquies, aptly expresses the
hollovvness of the sham, вАФ

" I am not fond of uttering platitudes
In stained-glass attitudes ;
In short, my mediaevalism 's affectation
Born of a morbid love of admiration."

In these four lines Gilbert pricked the aesthetic bubble,
and nothing did so much to end the fad of lank, languorous
maidens, and long-haired, sunflowered male aesthetes, as
his well-directed shafts of ridicule in this opera.

The story of the opera tells of the struggle for supremacy
over female hearts between an aesthetic (Bunthorne) and
an idyllic poet (Grosvenor). In the opening scene love-
sick maidens in clinging gowns, playing mandolins, sing
plaintively of their love for Bunthorne. Patience, a healthy
milkmaid, comes upon the scene, and makes fun of them,
and asks them why they sit and sob and sigh. She an-
nounces to them that the Dragoon Guards will soon arrive,
but although they doted upon Dragoons the year before
they spurn them now and go to Bunthorne's door to carol
to him. The Guards duly arrive, and are hardly settled
down when Bunthorne passes by in the act of compos-
ing a poem, followed by the twenty lovesick maidens.
After finishing his poem he reads it to them, and they go
off together, without paying any attention to the Dragoons,
who declare they have been insulted and leave in a rage.
Bunthorne, when alone, confesses to himself he is a sham,
and at the close of his confession Patience comes in. He
at once makes love to her, but only frightens her. She
then confers with Lady Angela, who explains love to her,
and tells her it is her duty to love some one. Patience
declares she will not go to bed until she has fallen in love
with some one, when Grosvenor, the idyllic poet and
"apostle of simplicity," enters. He and Patience had
been playmates in early childhood, and she promptly falls


in love with him, though he is indifferent. In the closing
scene Bunthorne, twined with garlands, is led in by the
maidens, and puts himself up as a prize in a lottery ; but
the drawing is interrupted by Patience, who snatches away
the papers and offers herself as a bride to Bunthorne, who
promptly accepts her. The maidens then make advances
to the Dragoons, but when Grosvenor appears they all de-
clare their love for him. Bunthorne recognizes him as a
dangerous rival, and threatens " he shall meet a hideous

The opening of the second act reveals Jane, an antique
charmer, sitting by a sheet of water mourning because the
fickle maidens have deserted Bunthorne, and because he
has taken up with " a puling milkmaid," while she alone is
faithful to him. In the next scene Grosvenor enters with
the maidens, of whom he is tired. They soon leave him in
low spirits, when Patience appears and tells him she loves
him, but can never be his, for it is her duty to love Bun-
thorne. The latter next appears, followed by the antique
Jane, who clings to him in spite of his efforts to get rid of
her. He accuses Patience of loving Grosvenor, and goes
off with Jane in a wildly jealous mood. In the next scene
the Dragoons, to win favor with the maidens, transform
themselves into a group of aesthetes. Bunthorne and Gros-
venor finally meet, and Bunthorne taxes his rival with
monopolizing the attentions of the young ladies. Gros-
venor replies that he cannot help it, and would be glad of
any suggestion that would lead to his being less attractive.
Bunthorne tells him he must change his conversation, cut
his hair, have a back parting, and wear a commonplace
costume. Grosvenor at first protests, but yields when
threatened with Bunthorne's curse. In the finale, when it
is discovered that Grosvenor has become a commonplace
young man, the maidens decide that if " Archibald the All-
Right " has discarded sestheticism, it is right for them to


do so. Patience takes the same view of the case, and
leaves Bunthorne for Grosvenor. The maidens find suitors
among the Dragoons, and even the antique Jane takes up
with the Duke, and Bunthorne is left alone with his lily,
nobody's bride.

The most popular musical numbers in the opera are the
Colonel's song (" If you want a Recipe for that popular
Mystery ") \ Bunthorne's " wild, weird, fleshly " song,
(" What Time the Poet hath hymned "), also his song (" If
you 're anxious for to shine ") ; the romantic duet of Pa-
tience and Grosvenor (" Prithee, pretty Maiden ") ; the
sextet ("I hear the soft Note of the echoing Voice");
Jane's song (" Silvered is the raven Hair ") ; Patience's
ballad (" Love is a plaintive Song ") ; Grosvenor's fable of
the magnet and the churn ; the rollicking duet of Bun-
thorne and Grosvenor (" When I go out of Door "), and the
" prettily pattering, cheerily chattering " chorus in the finale
of the last act.


"Iolanthe; or, the Peer and the Peri," comic opera in
two acts, text by Gilbert, was first produced at the Savoy
Theatre, London, November 25, 1882, with the following
cast :

Iolanthe , . Jessie Bond.

Queen of Fairies Alice Barnett.

Phyllis Leonore Braham.

Lord Chancellor George Grossmith.

Strephon Richard Temple.

Earl of Montararat Rutland Barrington.

Earl of Tololler Durwar Lely.

Private Willis Charles Manners.

The first act of " Iolanthe " opens in Arcady. Iolanthe,
a fairy, having offended her Queen by marrying a mortal,
has been banished for life ; but in the opening scene, after
twenty years of exile, she is pardoned. She tells the


Queen of her marriage, and her son Strephon, half a fairy
and half a shepherd, who is engaged to Phyllis, a shep-
herdess, and ward in chancery. At this point Strephon
enters and informs his mother that the Lord Chancellor will
not permit him to marry Phyllis, but that he will do so in
spite of him. He curses his fairyhood, but the Queen says
she has a borough at her disposal, and will return him to
Parliament as a Liberal-Conservative. In the next scene
Strephon meets Phyllis and pleads against delay in marriage,
since the Lord Chancellor himself may marry her, and many
of the lords are attentive to her. Meanwhile the lords
meet to decide which one of them shall have Phyllis, the
Lord Chancellor waiving his claim, as it might lay his de-
cision open to misconstruction. Phyllis is summoned be-
fore them, but is deaf to all entreaties, and declares she is
in love with Strephon, who has just entered. The peers
march out in a dignified manner, while the Lord Chan-
cellor separates Phyllis and Strephon and orders her away.
He then refuses Strephon his suit, whereupon the latter
invokes the aid of his fairy mother, who promises to lay the
case before her Queen. In the finale the peers are seen
leading Phyllis. She overhears something said by Strephon
and Iolanthe which induces her to believe he is faithless,
and she denounces him. He replies that Iolanthe is his
mother, but cannot convince her. She charges him with
deceit, and offers her hand to any one of the peers. He
then appeals to the Queen, who threatens vengeance upon
the peers and declares that Strephon shall go into Parlia-
ment. The peers beg her for mercy, and Phyllis implores
Strephon to relent, but he casts her from him.

The second act opens at Westminster. Strephon is in
Parliament and carrying things with a high hand. Phyllis
is engaged to two of the lords and cannot decide between
them, nor can they settle the matter satisfactorily, where-
upon the Lord Chancellor decides to press his own suit for



her hand. Strephon finally proves his birth to Phyllis and
explains away all her fears. Iolanthe then acknowledges
that the Lord Chancellor is her husband and pleads with
him in Strephon's behalf. When she makes this confession,
she is condemned to death for breaking her fairy vow.
Thereupon all the fairies confess that they have married
peers. As it is impracticable to kill them all, the Queen
hunts up a husband, and finds one in Private Willis, the
sentry in the palace yard. All the husbands join the fairies,
and thus matters are straightened out.

The music of " Iolanthe " is peculiarly refined and fanci-
ful, and abounds in taking numbers. The best of these are
Strephon's song (" Good Morrow ") ; the delightful duet
between Strephon and Phyllis ("None shall part us from
each other "), one of the most felicitous of the composer's
lighter compositions ; the Lord Chancellor's song (" When
I went to the Bar"); Strephon's charming ballad ("In
Babyhood upon her Lap I lay ") ; Private Willis's song
(" When all Night long a Chap remains ") ; the patter song
of the Lord Chancellor (" When you 're lying awake with a
dismal Headache ") ; the duet of Strephon and Phyllis
(" If we 're weak enough to tarry ") ; and Iolanthe's pretty
ballad (" He loves ! if in the by-gone Years ").

Princess Ida

"Princess Ida; or, Castle Adamant," comic opera in
three acts, text by Gilbert, was first produced at the Savoy
Theatre, London, January 5, 1884, and in New York, Feb-
ruary 11, 1884. It is the least effective of the Sullivan
operas. Its libretto is also the least effective of the Gilbert
stories set to the former's music. At the time it was written
the composer was depressed by a severe family affliction,
and at the same time had met the misfortune of losing all
his savings through the failure of those to whom he had
intrusted them. It may have been also that the labored



and heavy style of the story had something to do with the
dry and somewhat forced style of the music, as well as its
lack of the brightness and fancy which are so apparent in
"Pinafore "and "Patience." It was wittily called by the
authors " a respectful operatic perversion of Tennyson's
* Princess.' "

The first act opens at King Hildebrand's palace, where
the courtiers are watching- for the arrival of King Gama and
his daughter, the Princess Ida, who has been promised
in marriage to Hilarion, Hildebrand's son. When Gama
finally comes, Ida is not with him, and he explains to the
enraged Hildebrand that she is at Castle Adamant, one of
his country houses, where she is president of a woman's
university. Gama and his three sons, Avac, Guron, and
Scynthius, are seized and held as hostages for her appear-
ance, and in the meantime Hilarion, and his two friends,
Cyril and Florian, determine to go to Castle Adamant
and see if they cannot make some impression upon the

The second act opens at Castle Adamant, and discloses
the pupils of the university in discourse with Lady Psyche,
the Professor of Humanities, and Lady Blanche, Professor
of Abstract Science, who is ambitious to get control of the
institution. Hilarion and his two friends scale the wall and
get into the grounds, and finding some academic robes they
disguise themselves as girls. They first meet the Princess
and explain to her that they wish to enter the university, to
which she gives her consent upon their subscription to the
rules. They sign with enthusiasm, especially when they dis-
cover that there is one which requires them to give the full-
ness of their love to the hundred maidens of the university.
Shortly afterwards they encounter Lady Psyche, who recog-
nizes Florian as her brother. They tell their secret to her.
Melissa, the daughter of Lady Blanche, overhears them, and
is in raptures at her first sight of men. She discloses to her



mother what she has discovered, but urges her not to speak
of it, for if Hilarion is successful in his suit she (the Lady-
Blanche) may succeed to the presidency. At the luncheon,
however, the Princess discovers she is entertaining three
men and flees from the spot. In crossing a bridge she falls
into the river, but is rescued by Hilarion. Her anger is not
appeased by his gallantry, and she orders the arrest of the
three. As they are marched off, there is a tumult outside.
Hildebrand, with an armed force and with his four hostages,
has arrived, and gives the Princess until the morrow after-
noon to release Hilarion and become his bride.

The last act opens with the preparations of the Princess
and her pupils to defend themselves, but one after the other
their courage deserts them. Gama proposes that his three
sons shall be pitted against Hilarion and his two friends,
and if the latter are defeated the Princess shall be free. In
the contest Gama's sons are defeated, whereupon the Prin-
cess at once resigns and accepts Hilarion. The Lady Psyche
falls to Cyril, and the delighted Melissa to Florian, and it is
to be presumed the presidency of the woman's college
falls to Lady Blanche.

As has already been intimated, the music as a whole is
labored, but there are some numbers that are fully up to the
Sullivan standard; among them Hilarion's ballad ("Ida was
a twelvemonth old ") ; Gama's characteristic song ("If you
give me your Attention "), and the trio of Gama's sons
(" For a Month to dwell ") in the first act ; the Princess's
long aria (" At this my Call ") ; Lady Blanche's song
(" Come, mighty Must ") ; Lady Psyche's sarcastic evolu-
tion song (" A Lady fair of Lineage high ") ; Cyril's song
(" Would you know the Kind of Maid ") ; and Hilarion's
song (" Whom thou hast chained must wear his Chain "), in
the second act ; and the Princess's song (" I built upon a
Rock ") ; Gama's song (" Whene'er I spoke sarcastic
Joke ") ; the soldiers' chorus (" When Anger spreads his


Wings"); and the finale ("With Joy abiding"), in the
third act.

The Mikado

" The Mikado ; or, the Town of Titipu," comic opera in
two acts, text by Gilbert, was first produced at the Savoy
Theatre, London, March 14, 1885, and in New York,
August 19, 1885. That the "Princess Ida," ineffective as
it is in some respects, did not indicate that the resources of
Gilbert and Sullivan were exhausted, is shown by the great
success of both in " The Mikado," which immediately fol-
lowed it. This charming travesty of Japan, with the excep-
tion perhaps of " Pinafore," has proved to be the most
popular of the Sullivan operas, and has even made an im-
pression in Germany. It has been an equal success for
both the musician and the librettist, and still retains its
freshness and vivacity after more than twenty years of

The story of " The Mikado " is so well known that it
need not be given with much fulness of detail. Nanki-Poo,
the Mikado's son, is in love with Yum- Yum, the ward of
the tailor Ko-Ko, who is also Lord High Executioner, and
to whom she is betrothed, as Nanki-Poo is informed by
Pooh-Bah, when he comes to Titipu in quest of her.
Pooh-Bah, who accepted all the offices of the Ministers of
State after their resignations when Ko-Ko was made Lord
High Executioner, is also " the retailer of state secrets at a
low figure," and furnishes much of the delightful comedy of
the opera. Nanki-Poo nevertheless manages to secure an
interview with Yum-Yum, confesses to her he is the Mika-
do's son, and that he is in disguise to escape punishment
for not marrying the elderly Katisha. Ko-Ko's matrimonial
arrangements are interfered with by a message from the
Mikado, that unless some one is beheaded in Titipu within
a month he will be degraded. Nanki-Poo consents to be
beheaded if he is allowed to marry Yum-Yum and live with


her for the month. This being satisfactory, the arrange-
ments for the nuptials are made.

The second act opens with Yum-Yum's preparations for
her marriage. A tete-a-tete with Nanki-Poo is interrupted
by Ko-Ko, who announces that by the law when a married
man is beheaded his wife must be buried alive. This
cools Yum-Yum's passion, and to save her Nanki-Poo
threatens to perform the "happy despatch" that day.
As this would endanger Ko-Ko, he arranges to swear
to a false statement of Nanki-Poo's execution. Sud-
denly the Mikado arrives. Ko-Ko gives him the state-
ment, but a great danger is imminent when the Mikado
informs him he has killed the heir apparent and must
suffer some horrible punishment. In the denouement
Nanki-Poo reappears, and Ko-Ko gets out of trouble
by marrying the ancient Katisha, leaving Yum- Yum to

The opera abounds in charming lyrics, though with a
single exception, a march chorus in the second act (" Miya
sama, miya sama "), there is no local color to the music, as
might have been expected in an opera entirely Japanese in
its subject and dramatic treatment. Its lyrics are none the
less delightful on that account. The most popular numbers
in the first act are Ko-Ko's song, with its choral response,
("You may put 'em on the List and they never will be
missed ") ; the fascinating trio for Yum-Yum, Peep-Bo,
and Pitti-Sing (" Three little Maids from School are
we ") ; Nanki-Poo's song (" A wandering Minstrel ") ;
and the trio for Ko-Ko, Pooh-Bah, and Pish-Tush ("My
Brain, it teems "). The leading numbers of the second
act are Yum-Yum's song (" The Sun, whose Rays ") ;
the quartet (" Brightly dawns our Wedding-Day ") ; the
Mikado's song (" A more humane Mikado never ") ;
Ko-Ko's romantic ballad ("On a Tree by a River a little
Tomtit "), which is in the genuine old English manner, and


the well-known duet for Nanki-Poo and Ko-Ko ("The
Flowers that bloom in the Spring, tra la ").


" Ruddygore ; or, the Witch's Curse," comic opera in
two . acts, text by Gilbert, was first produced at the Savoy
Theatre, London, January 22, 1887, and in New York,
February 21, 1887. Although "Ruddygore," a satire upon
the old English melodramas, has not been as success-
ful as some of the other Sullivan operas, it is as entertain-
ing as any in the series, while the story, with its grotesque,
dramatic features, is peculiarly Gilbertian in its humor.
The first act opens in Cornwall. Sir Rupert Murgatroyd,
the first of the baronets, employed his leisure in persecuting
witches and committing other crimes. The chorus of " the
legend," sung by Hannah, an old spinster, prophesies that
each Murgatroyd will die "with sinning cloyed." To avoid
this fate, the last inheritor of the title, Sir Ruthven, secludes
himself under the name of Robin Oakapple, in the Cornish
village of Rederring, and his younger brother, Despard,
believing- him to be dead, succeeds to the title. Robin,
who is shy and modest, is in love with Rose, a foundling,
who is very discreet. The love-making lags, and mean-
while Richard, his foster-brother, a man-o'-war's man, re-
turns from sea, and so commiserates Robin that he offers
to plead his case with Rose. Instead of that he pleads his
own case, and is accepted by her, much to the disappoint-
ment of Robin, who supports Richard's claim, however.

Online LibraryGeorge P. (George Putnam) UptonThe standard operas: their plots, their music, and their composers → online text (page 23 of 37)