Princess Ida

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Princess Ida

Postby Barry » Sun Aug 16, 2009 12:05 am

Princess Ida, Buxton Gilbert and Sullivan Festival, August 15th 2009

Gilbert and Sullivan - words that bring out obsessions and apoplexy in equal measures. I love the operas with a passionate admiration. It's the nonsense that goes with them that makes me uncomfortable. I don't want to belittle the audiences and societies that get so much pleasure from watching and performing the operas, but it does distress me to see people endlessly and smugly giving pale imitations of other more skilled performances. Gilbert, whilst being particular, was certainly an innovator and would have hated the idea of his pieces frozen in time, given narrow minded productions. That's it - I hate with a vengeance a lack of imagination, or a naivety that suggests there is only one way to perform something, or a performance of something that has not questioned what it is about, or even bothered to find an interesting way to interpret or present it. I do resent some people's use of Gilbert and sullivan to promote their ego, assuming that since G and S are supposedly easy to sing some quota of skill might be discernable. G & S is not easy to sing, and many a singer has stumbled over the harmonies and especially the diction. This rant was prompted by so enjoying this performance of Princess Ida but feeling uncomfortable at the half hearted sing-a-long before curtain up, especially those who endeavour to sing louder than anyone else showign that they know the words. Yes G & S brings out the worst in people - me included.
But this production, in the spirit of the festival, was put together with remarkable haste, and the only real evidence of that was a servicable set, though some beautiful costumes and witty staging ideas certainly made up for that. Princess Ida is an uncomfortable piece when played seriously - it did contain a truly terrible racist lyric, and the idea of women seeking education being ridiculed by men is awkward, but here the director made the men ridiculing the women look ridiculous. Some great pieces of business, and the women arriving to fight armed with saucepans and whisks a clever an obvious one, but made genius by Jill Pert as Lady Blanche arriving with a kettle as a helmet. The middle act really does contain some of the finest writing in both lyrics and music, and there's a swift succession of songs that cannot help but make you smile. The female 'Sing hoity toity' duet had more delicacy than most Mozart operas. Utterly beautiful, and sung with real sincerity.
A totally engrossing evening, but i might just not go to the G&S University Challenge evening nor by some sweets from Buttercup's Basket. I will, though, go and put on a CD.
Oh to get a chance to direct and design an opera.
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