Opera: Gilbert & Sullivan concert
My original post:
Has anyone ever done a concert version of a G&S production. Is there
such a thing as a concert package that would take care of the synopsis -
by using a narrator, perhaps? Any leads would be appreciated.
Dr. Douglas Rose
Albion, MI 49224
And the responses--thanks to all!!
There are lots of different ways to present G&S in concert and many
different programs with different kinds of connections have been
written. It is really more of a question of either finding someone who
done this in the past and would let you have what they did, or, and
my preferred option, deciding what you want on the program and then
your own connections.
For example, a program called "Right Down Regular Royal Queen" which
emphasizes G&S and the various views of the monarchy and other systems
Government. If you have a strong drama Department, you could arrange
have this hosted by Queen Victoria and either Prince Albert or Mr.
Or you could go with the "topsy-turvy" world of Gilbert and Sullivan
just do a chronological program. The BBC did one of these at Royal
Hall "hosted" by Gilbert and Sullivan.
The nice thing is that the information is now readily available and
people would be more than happy to help out.
There is a 4 volume set entitled "The Immortal Operas of Gilbert and
Sullivan" which was published by The 'News Chronicle' Publications
(date unknown - it does not appear on the flyleaf of my set) "by
with Chappell & Co Ltd and JB Cramer & Co Ltd. I don't suppose they
still in print, but they are widely available in secondhand shops this
of 'the pond'. They are not complete versions, but do include all the
choruses, ensembles and arias with a piece of synopsis linking each of
I have personally taken part in numerous full concert versions. In
events the narrator's script was generally drawn from the same books -
adapted from a CD booklet!
This year we had a wonderful concert version of HMS Pinafore. Because
the chorus did not have to learn the music by heart many joined us
who would not have done. We had a chorus of over 100 singers. Many of
our tenors were ladies - straight out of The Bumboat Woman's Story!
The soloists were in costumes that suggested their character and they
did act as they sang or were sung to (limited by the confines of a
concert stage). The links were achieved by a narrator - in our case
it was Captain Corcoran. He managed to incorporate many topical
An excellent evening!
Contact Mike and Debbie Baad (a) dbaadrn(a)citlink.net. They run an
company that specializes in G (a) S.
As I see it, you can take two or three approaches to an in-concert
In the first case, you may assume a certain familiarity with the canon
the audience point of view and just perform the musical numbers. If
want to go a step further, it would not be terribly difficult to write
short narration to accompany the singing. This would be a great
opportunity to get a local public figure or celebrity in on the
performance. You may also consider doing the dialogue with the music
would suggest that too much of the visual aspect of the dialogue (does
make sense??) would be lost. I think the narration would be a better
A second possibility would be to print a synopsis in the program but I
think that you would lose the immediacy of the story line this
way. Besides, I wouldn't want to have an audience constantly shuffling
pages looking for the context of a particular aria or chorus. You
however, depending upon the level of G&S familiarity you assume your
audience to have, print selected chorus texts for them to join in.
has worked very well at galas held here and the audience seemed to
get up for this level of participation.
I hope this is of some help. I hope, too, that other "Netters will
with their thoughts and ideas. In any case, please be sure to let us
when you are doing something like this because you may be surprised
how much of a response you get! By the way, there is a very active G&S
group in Ann Arbor.
At the last Buxton G&S festival, found a book on this:
Taylor, Ian. How to Produce Concert Versions of Gilbert & Sullivan.
Woodstock, N.Y.: Beekman Publishers, 1972. 249 p. ISBN 0-8464-0494-X
The author advocates perfoming the songs with a linking narrative
one of the "characters". The performers' dress would suggest an
appropriate costume and there would be some limited movement. The book
contains suggested texts for the shows (possibly not Utopia or Grand
I can't check as I've lent the book to the producer of a concert
I have performed a number of G&S shows in concert. It has generally
semi-staged - some movement by soloists and most if not all of the
dialogue. This can work well if the soloists are decent actors. The
way is to replace the dialogue by a narrator. As well as Ian Taylor's
suggestion I have produced a performance where the narrator was not one
the soloists. I can't remember exactly where the narration came from,
I think I adapted it from a sysnopsis. In this particular case we were
able to dress the theatre we used with an appropriate stage cloth.
I have also seen two concert G&S performances that were part of the
in London, with leading british G&S singers in the solo roles.
My experience is that concert G&S works well if it is not practical to
produce a staged show. It was my introduction to both watching and
performing G&S and led to me performing regularly in various music
productions in the twenty tears since.
I hope this is useful.
The Sudbury Savoyards of Sudbury, MA performed a concert G&S revue in
2001 entitled "Places,Please" with full orchestra combined with a
of Trial by Jury. Neither has narration.
Here's a description of "Places, Please":
"The New England premiere of this choral and symphonic compilation
the operas of Gilbert and Sullivan by the Durham Savoyards' Maestro
Keaton. Each of the four movements explores a certain type of song
the G&S operas: (I) Entrances, (II) Love Songs and Madrigals, (III)
Patter, and (IV) Exits and Finale."
Everyone was in costume from one or another of the G&S operas, with a
action in front of the chorus.
Trial by Jury was semi-staged in front of the chorus, with all leads
Here's a link to more information: www.sudburysavoyards.org or
Cheers & good luck.
Dr. Douglas Rose
Albion, MI 49224