BY THE SAME AUTHOR
Crown 4to, 5s. net
The Story of “H.M.S. Pinafore”
told by W. S. Gilbert
With 16 Illustrations in Colour, numerous Black-and-White Drawings, and Special Cover and End Papers by
ALICE B. WOODWARD
“A delightful book, absolutely bubbling over with the author’s genial and characteristic humour. Miss Woodward has adorned it with illustrations which have caught the very spirit of the bright play, and ‘The Pinafore Picture Book’ is a gift-book which we have never, or, at any rate, ‘hardly ever,’ known surpassed.” —Glasgow Herald.
LONDON: GEORGE BELL AND SONS
CHISWICK PRESS: CHARLES WHITTINGHAM AND CO.
TOOKS COURT, CHANCERY LANE, LONDON.
Each of the four Savoy Libretti which Messrs. Bell have selected for publication in this volume has a little history of its own which, in their opinion, may have some interest for its readers.
The first of these, the “Pirates of Penzance,” was produced at the Fifth Avenue Theatre, New York, after a perfunctory “scratch” performance at Paignton, on the previous night, for supposed copyright purposes. The price of admission was fixed, I believe, at a guinea, and only one person was sufficiently enterprising to pay that sum. The performers read their parts from printed copies and the music of the songs was largely extemporized by them. Whether this “performance” did or did not serve to ensure copyright in the United States I do not know, but threats of procedure against intending violators were based upon it and had the necessary deterring effect. The opera was first produced at the Opéra Comique, London, on the 3rd April, 1880.
A tragic incident occurred at the last rehearsal but one. Miss Everard (the admirable Mrs. Partlet of “The Sorcerer” and Little Buttercup of “H.M.S. Pinafore”) was standing in the middle of the stage when a heavy “set piece” which had been carelessly “footed,” fell forward upon her and caused a fracture of the skull of which the poor lady died in a week. A telegram was immediately despatched to a very clever actress-contralto, Miss Emily vi Cross, who played the part, letter-perfect and note-perfect, two days later, with great success.
The part of Mabel was played by Miss Marion Hood, a singularly beautiful young lady, and a brilliant vocalist. I believe it was her first appearance on the professional stage, and her excellent performance served to secure her many valuable offers. Two or three important members of the company claimed to be foreigners, and although they consented, under pressure, to appear under English names, spoke nevertheless with strong Italian or French accents. One of them, an “Italian,” was brought to a sense of the situation by Mr. R. Barker, the stage manager, who was celebrated for his frank and unceremonious methods of address. Mr. Barker bore with the Italian gentleman for a week or two, but at last his patience was exhausted and he said to him “Look here, my boy, we shall get on much better if you’ll give us a little more Whitechapel and a little less of the Mediterranean.” The Italian gentleman took the hint; he became a native of Whitechapel, and the Mediterranean knew him no more.
In “Patience,” as originally constructed, Grosvenor and Bunthorne were to have been two curates, one of them jealous of the other’s exceeding meekness (the libretto was, in point of fact, suggested by my Bab Ballad—“the Rival Curates,”) and the Cavalry Officers, whose pretensions to the young ladies of the piece were nullified by the superior attractions of the Curates, finished by resigning their commissions and taking orders. In the course of its composition I became conscious of the fact that a chorus of comic clergymen would very properly be resented as a serious violation of the canons of good taste, so I converted Grosvenor and Bunthorne into aesthetic absurdities, without any very violent departure from the “root idea” of the vii piece. One would have thought that when the so-called “aesthetic craze” died out, the popularity of the Opera would have died with it, but, in point of fact, it has survived that social folly nearly thirty years and, at the time of writing, it is as popular as any of the series. It must be admitted, however, that this is mainly referable to the delightful music with which Sir Arthur Sullivan has endowed the libretto, and which, happily, is not dependent for its popularity on the absurdities of a fleeting craze.
“Princess Ida,” in its original form, was an extravaganza founded on Tennyson’s “Princess” and was produced at the Olympic, with already existing music, in (I think) 1870. It was chiefly remarkable for the admirable performance of the name-part by a remarkably beautiful and talented actress, Miss Mattie Reinhardt, who, if she had not married and left the stage, would assuredly have become one of its principal ornaments. King Gama was superbly played by a very clever comedian, Mr. Elliot, who had just distinguished himself by an admirable performance of Uriah Heep in an adaptation of “David Copperfield.” In my “respectful per-version” of Tennyson’s poem the three stalwart sons of King Gama were represented by three very slight and delicate young ladies. Hilarion, Cyril, and Florian were also represented by young ladies, and the effect of three girls playing the parts of men who were disguised as girls involved difficulties which nothing short of the aid of a musical setting by Sir Arthur Sullivan would have overcome. This was an advantage, however, that the piece, in its then form, did not possess.
At the Savoy, the part of Princess Ida was excellently played and sung by Miss Leonora Braham, who had already distinguished herself by her delightful impersonation of Patience, in the opera of that name. The part in viii “The Princess” required a tall, dignified lady, and such a lady was engaged, but the state of her health prevented her attending rehearsals, and the part was given to Miss Braham at almost the last moment. Miss Braham was somewhat short in stature, but in every other respect she fully realized the intentions of composer and author. That superb singer and excellent actress, Miss Rosina Brandram, made her first distinct success as Lady Blanche, and the delightful Jessie Bond revealed a sense of exquisite humour in her joyous impersonation of Melissa. In the last act the principal ladies were dressed in very imposing armour which was supplied by a Paris armurier. On the first night I was sitting in the green-room during the progress of the last act, reading a newspaper, when this gentleman, who had come over from Paris to enjoy the effect of his armour upon the stage, broke in upon me in a wild state of delight, “Mais savez-vous, Monsieur,” said he, “que vous avez là un succès solide?” I replied to the effect that the piece seemed to be going very well. “Mais vous êtes si calme!” he exclaimed with a look of unbounded astonishment. I suppose he expected to see me kissing all the carpenters.
“The Yeomen of the Guard” was somewhat of a departure from the class of piece which was expected of us by the Savoy audience—the story being more of a consistent drama with a certain note of pathos in the development of the character of Jack Point, and as a consequence we awaited the result of the first night’s performance with somewhat anxious minds. However, both press and public accepted the opera with enthusiasm, so all was well. The genesis of this libretto was a placard advertisement of the Tower Furnishing Company, in which a Beefeater was a conspicuous figure. I was on my way from Uxbridge to ix Paddington and, having missed my train at Uxbridge, I had an hour to wait, and so it came to pass that I had plenty of time in which to study the advertisement on the walls. The Beefeater on the placard suggested to me that an effective libretto might be constructed, the scenes in which should represent two views of the Tower of London, with a body of Beefeaters as male chorus. My first idea was to make the piece modern, with young ladies, guardsmen, a Lieutenant of the Tower, and forth; but a picture of a jester in a Magazine which I bought to read while I was waiting suggested to me the advisability of putting the piece back into the sixteenth century in order that I might be able to weave that effectively dramatic figure into the story. I had christened the piece “The Beefeaters,” but Sir Arthur Sullivan considered “Beefeaters” to be an ugly word; so at his urgent instance the title was altered to “The Yeomen of the Guard,” notwithstanding the fact that the Yeomen of the Guard, properly so called, have no association whatever with the Tower of London. I believe that this piece was a special favourite of Sir Arthur Sullivan’s, and I am certainly disposed to regard it as the best piece of work that he and I have produced in collaboration. I am also disposed to believe that, if I had not missed that train, I should never have written that piece. I may mention that some lines from one of the songs “Is life a boon?” were especially honoured by having been selected by the committee of the Sullivan Memorial on the Embankment as worthy to be inscribed on its pedestal.
W. S. GILBERT.
|THE PIRATES OF PENZANCE||1|
|THE YEOMEN OF THE GUARD||151|
LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS
|THE PIRATES OF PENZANCE|
|“Pour, oh pour the pirate sherry;
Fill, oh fill the pirate glass”
|“I am a pirate!”||14|
|“Too late! Ha! Ha!”||18|
|“Away, you grieve me!”||22|
|Dance of the Pirates||24|
|“With cat-like tread,
Upon our prey we steal”
|Enter the General’s Daughters||40|
|A Struggle ensues between Pirates and Police||42|
|“Twenty love-sick maidens we”||49|
|“I cannot tell what this love may be
That cometh to all, but not to me”
|“Red and yellow! Primary colours! Oh, South Kensington!”||58|
|“I thought as much—I thought as much!
He was a little boy!”
|xiv “Archibald! Is it possible?”||66|
|Enter Bunthorne, crowned with Roses and hung about with Garlands||68|
|“Silvered is the raven hair”||76|
|“How Botticellian! How Fra Angelican!”||84|
|“I can tell a woman’s age in half a minute—and I do”||106|
|“Must we, till then, in prison cell be thrust?”||110|
|Enter the Princess, reading||120|
|Enter the “Daughters of the Plough,” bearing Luncheon||130|
|“If it be well to droop and pine and mope,
To sigh ‘Oh, Ida! Ida!’ all day long,
Then prince Hilarion is very well” (p. 131)
|The gate yields. Hildebrand and Soldiers rush in||134|
|“Though I am but a girl,
Defiance thus I hurl”
|“Where are your rifles, pray?”||140|
|THE YEOMEN OF THE GUARD|
|“I didn’t become a head-jailor because I liked head-jailing”||156|
|“Oh, father, father, I cannot bear it!”||162|
|xv “I have a song to sing, O!”||166|
|Wilfred binds Elsie’s Eyes with a Kerchief||170|
|“The prisoner comes to meet his doom”||182|
|“Ah! ’tis but melancholy mumming when poor heartbroken jilted Jack Point must needs turn to Hugh Ambrose for original light humour!”||186|
|“Nay, Sweetheart, be comforted. This Fairfax was but a pestilent fellow”||198|
|“It’s the song of a merryman, moping mum”||206|