Secrets of a Savoyard
THE STORIES OF THE OPERAS.
"TRIAL BY JURY."
Produced March 25th, 1875.
GILBERT and Sullivan's fame was really based on a little comic opera called "Thespis." It was produced by John Hollingshead at the Gaiety, and its success was so great that Mr. Richard D'Oyly Carte was induced to invite them to collaborate again in the first of what we now know as the D'Oyly Carte operas, the dramatic cantata, "Trial by Jury." Short and slender as it is, this opera has always been immensely popular, and it still appears regularly in the company's programmes. Gilbert, who had himself followed the law before he transferred his talents to the stage, took as his subject an imaginary breach of promise case between Edwin and Angelina. That it is a faithful picture of a court of law and of those who minister there one would never dare to suggest! But as a very free and clever burlesque even those who follow the vocation of the wig and gown will admit its claims immediately.
When the curtain rises we see the interior of a court of justice, and the barristers, solicitors and jury are already in their places. The Usher, a functionary of the old school, at once proceeds to give some homely and informal advice to the jurymen, telling them to listen to the case with minds free from vulgar prejudice. With that he goes on to try to soften their masculine hearts over the plight of poor Angelina. When the defendant enters the twelve good men and true shake their fists in his face, hail him as a "monster," and bid him "dread our damages." Edwin ventures to suggest that, as they are in the dark as to the merits of his case, these proceedings are strange. He tells how he once rapturously adored the lady, how she then began to bore him intensly, and how at last he became "another's love-sick boy." The jury reflect that they, too, were rather inconstant in their own youthful days, but now that they are older and "shine with a virtue resplendent" they "haven't a scrap of sympathy with the defendant."
The Judge now takes his seat on the bench. The genial soul, as a prelude to the duties of the day, confides how he rose to judicial eminence. For years he searched in vain for briefs, and then he found an easy escape from poverty by marrying a rich attorney's elderly, ugly daughter. He would, his father-in-law said, soon get used to her looks, and in the meanwhile he promised to deluge him with briefs for the "Sessions and Ancient Bailey." By these means he prospered, and then he "threw over that rich attorney's elderly ugly daughter." And now he is ready to try this present breach of promise of marriage.
Counsel for the plaintiff having taken his place, the jury are sworn well and truly to try the case, which they do by kneeling low down in the box and, with the exception of their upraised hands, quite out of sight. The plaintiff's arrival is heralded by that of a beautiful bevy of bridesmaids. The Judge, having taken a fancy to one of them, pens her a little note, which she kisses rapturously. Yet when he sees the plaintiff, a still brighter vision of loveliness, he orders that the note shall be taken from the bridesmaid and given to her. Judge and jury alike are entranced. Counsel proceeds to open the case, and with bitter reproaches he assails the traitor whose heartless wile victimised his "interesting client," to whom "Camberwell (had) become a bower, Peckham an Arcadian vale." The plaintiff weeps. When she is led to the witness-box she falls in a faint on to the foreman's shoulders, but upon the Judge inquiring whether she would not rather recline on him, the fair lady jumps on to the bench and sits down fondly by the side of the Judge.
Edwin, regarded by all as an object of villainy, now proceeds to state his case, and can only offer to marry the lady to-day and then marry his new love to-morrow. The judge suggests that this may be a fair proposition, but counsel holds that, on the other hand, "to marry two at once is burglaree." Angelina, with a view to increasing the damages, now embraces her inconstant lover and calls upon the jury to witness what a loss she has to deplore. Edwin, in the hope in turn of reducing them, declares that at heart he is a ruffian and a bully, and that she could never endure him a day. The Judge suggests that, as the man declares that when tipsy he would thrash her and kick her, the best plan would be for them to make him tipsy and see. Objection is raised to this on every side, and then the man of law, losing his temper and scattering the books hither and thither, declares that as nothing will please them he will marry the lady himself. This solution seems to carry general agreement. The judge, having claimed her hand, sings :-
You declare my law is fudge,
Yet of beauty I'm a judge."
To which all in court reply, "And a good judge too!"
Produced November 17th, 1877.
"THE SORCERER" is a merry story of sentimental topsy-turvydom. Cupid could never have performed more mischievous pranks as he did, aided by a magician's love potion, in the pleasant village of Ploverleigh. Sir Marmaduke Pointdextre, a baronet of ancient lineage, has invited the tenantry to his Elizabethan mansion to celebrate the betrothal of his son Alexis, a Grenadier Guardsman, to the lovely Aline. So happy and romantic a union between two old families deserved to be worthily honoured, and a large and lavishly stocked marquee, we notice, has been erected at one side of the garden. Aline herself is rich, the only daughter of the Lady Sangazure, and the seven thousand and thirty-seventh in direct descent, it seems, from Helen of Troy. Nor are there heart-stirrings only in the homes of the great. Early in the opera it transpires that Constance Partlet, the daughter of a humble pew-opener at the Parish Church, has a doting love for the vicar, Dr. Daly. It is a hopeless passion. Not that the vicar, now a bachelor of venerable years, had never felt the throb of romance in his soul, and never recalled the "aching memory of the old, old days." Fondly does he muse over the time when :-
Forsaking even Military men,
Would gaze upon me, rapt in admiration --
Ah, me! I was a pale young curate then."
This, indeed, was the time when love and he were well acquainted, as he tells us in a delightful ballad, and when none was better loved that he in all the land. Yet even these dreams of yesteryear fail to awaken in him the desires for a joyous to-morrow. Constance's mother finds him quite unresponsive to her ingenious suggestions, for though he sees the advantage of having a lady installed in the vicarage, he is too old now for his estate to be changed.
Sir Marmaduke and Alexis enter. The honest heart of the father glows at the thought of the marriage, though he confesses that he has little liking for the new kind of love-making, in which couples rush into each other's arms rapturously singing :-
"Ecstatic rapture!" .................."Unmingled joy!"
So different, he reflects, from the older and more courtly "Madame, I trust you are in the enjoyment of good health" ; "Sir, you are vastly polite, I protest I am mighty well." Even thus did he once pay his addresses to the Lady Sangazure. For once they, too, were lovers. But these reveries are ended by the arrival of Aline, and soon afterwards, to the tuneful salutation of the villagers, the marriage contract is signed and sealed in the presence of Counsel.
Left alone at last with his betrothed, Alexis tells her of his maxim that true love, the source of every earthly joy, should break down all such artificial barriers as rank, wealth, beauty and age. Upon this subject he has lectured in the workhouses, beershops and asylums, and been received with enthusiasm everywhere, though he cannot deny the aloofness as yet of the aristocracy. He is going to take a desperate step to put those noble principles to proof. From London he has summoned the great John Wellington Wells. He belongs to an old-established firm of family sorcerers, who practise all sorts of magics and spells, with their wonderful penny curse as their quick-selling speciality. From the moment he enters it is obvious that this glib-tongued charlatan is a hustling dynamo. Alexis, much to Aline's alarm, commissions him to supply liberal quantities of his patent love philtre in order that, from purely philanthropical motives, as he explains, he may distribute it secretly amongst the villagers. Wells, like the pushful tradesman he is, has the very thing in his pocket. He guarantees that whoever drinks it will fall in love, as a matter of course, with the first lady he meets who has also tasted it, and his affection will be returned immediately. Then follows a melodramatic incantation as the sorcerer deposits the philtre into a gigantic teapot.
"Spirits of earth and air, fiends of flame and fire" are summoned "in shoals" to "this dreadful deed inspire." This done Mr. Wells beckons the villagers, and all the party, except the two lovers, join merrily in drinking a toast drawn from the teapot. Quickly it becomes evident from their strange conduct that the charm is working. All rub their eyes, and the curtain falls on the picture of many amorous couples, rich and poor alike, under the spell of the romantic illusion.
The same scene greets us when the second act opens. The couples are strangely assorted - an old man with a girl, an elderly woman with a youth - but all sing and dance to a love that is "the source of all joy to humanity." Constance confesses her rapture for a deaf old Notary. Sir Marmaduke himself walks arm-in-arm with Mrs. Partlet. Dr. Daly is sadly perplexed. The villagers, who had not been addicted to marrying and giving in marriage, have now been coming to him in a body and imploring him to join them in matrimony with little delay. The sentimental old bachelor reflects, moreover, how comely all the maidens are, and sighs that alas! all now are engaged! Meanwhile, Alexis has tried to persuade Aline that they should drink the philtre too, for only thus can they ensure their own undying devotion. She refuses and there is a tiff, but later, to prove that her love for him is true, she does drink the potion, only to be seized by a passionate affection for - Dr. Daly. Nor can the good vicar resist the yearning to reciprocate. Coming to the scene, Alexis is outraged with his lover's perfidy, and at last has very serious doubts about the excellence of his theories and the wisdom of the sorcerer's spell. Dr. Daly, determined to be no man's rival, is ready to quit the country at once and bury his sorrow "in the congenial gloom of a colonial bishopric."
But one of the drollest effects of the enchantment has still to be told. The first man on whom the Lady Sangazure casts her eye after she has succumbed is none other than the notorious John Wellington Wells. In vain does he lie to her that he is already engaged. In vain does he describe a beauteous maiden with bright brown hair who waits for him in the Southern Pacific. She threatens at last to end her sorrows in the family vault, and only then does the sorcerer, as a small reparation for all the emotional disturbance he has created, decide that the acceptance of her hand might not be at all a bad bargain.
In the end the magic scheme becomes so involved that it must be at all costs disentangled. It can be done in only one way. Someone must yield his life to Ahrimanes. Wells agrees to commit this act of self-immolation, and amidst a wreath of fire and brimstone he disappears, melodramatic to the last, through a trap-door in the stage. With his departure the couples re-assort themselves, selecting mates in keeping with their various social stations and ages, and the betrothal festivities resume their merry sway.
Produced May 25th, 1878.
CERTAINLY "H.M.S. Pinafore" was not a model ship as regards the sense of discipline that exists in the real British Navy. But in every other respect it was a model ship. Captain Corcoran was the commander of its jovial crew, and a very fine commander he was, always indulgent to his men and always ready to address them politely. Swearing on board was a thing almost unknown. Corcoran did say "bother it" now and again, but he tells us that he never used "a big, big d --" - at least, "hardly ever." Lustily do the crew "give three cheers and one cheer more for the well-bred captain of the Pinafore."
The opera has the quarter-deck for its setting, and it is related that Gilbert took as his model for this scene the old Victory, which he went to see at Portsmouth. Our first introduction is to the crew, who busily polish the brasswork and splice the rope while they sing in tuneful nautical strains that their "saucy ship's a beauty" and manned by "sober men and true, attentive to their duty." Only one gruff old salt is there amongst them, and we discover him in the ugly, distorted form of Dick Deadeye. He is thoroughly unpopular. Soon the sailors welcome on board Little Buttercup, a Portsmouth bumboat woman who has come to sell her wares and who is hailed as "the rosiest, the roundest and the reddest beauty in all Spithead." She has certainly some delightful ditties to sing.
One member of the crew is handsome Ralph Rackstraw, who confesses to a passion for Corcoran's pretty daughter, Josephine. The poor fellow is downcast that his ambitions should have soared to such impossible heights. Yet Josephine herself is also sad because of a heart that "hopes but vainly." Corcoran chides her, and tells her how happy she should be when her hand is to be claimed, that very day, by the great Sir Joseph Porter, K.C.B., the First Lord of the Admiralty. She confesses that, although she is a proud captain's daughter, she loves a humble sailor on board her father's own ship.
Sir Joseph's stately barge is approaching. He comes attended by a host of his sisters and his cousins and his aunts, a very large and charming family group whom the sailors, instead of standing rigidly at attention, salute with effusive politeness. Sir Joseph, attired in the Court dress of his office, proceeds at once to describe his meteoric rise from an office boy in an attorney's firm to become the "ruler of the Queen's Navee." The story is that of an industrious clerk who, having "served the writs with a smile so bland and copied all the letters in a big round hand" is taken at last into partnership, and eventually becomes an obedient party man in Parliament and a member of the Ministry. For landsmen the moral of it all is summed up in this golden rule
And you all may be rulers of the Queen's Navee."
The First Lord has ideas of his own that the sense of independence in the lower deck must be fully encouraged. The British sailor he holds to be any man's equal, and he insists that Captain Corcoran shall accompany every order of his crew, over whom he has been placed merely by accident of birth, with a courteous "if you please." Then he takes Corcoran into the cabin to teach him another accomplishment - dancing the hornpipe. Josephine meanwhile steals out on to the deck. She meets Ralph Rackstraw, who boldly gambles his all on an immediate protestation of love, only to be refused for his presumption and impetuosity. The poor fellow, before the whole ship's company and without their lifting a hand to restrain him, prepares to blow out his brains, when the girl rushes into his arms. Notwithstanding the evil Dick Deadeye's warning, they arrange to steal ashore at night to be married, and the curtain falls on the crew giving three cheers for the sailor's bride.
When the second act opens the deck is bathed in moonlight. Captain Corcoran is strumming his mandoline and singing a plaintive song - he laments that everything is at sixes and sevens - while gazing at him sentimentally is Little Buttercup. Following a duet between them, Sir Joseph Porter enters to complain that he is disappointed in Josephine, and Corcoran can attribute her reticence only to the exalted rank of so distinguished a suitor as the First Lord of the Admiralty. Corcoran afterwards takes his daughter aside and explains to her that love is a platform on which all ranks meet, little mindful how eloquently he is thus pleading the cause of humble Ralph. When the girl has left Dick Deadeye comes to warn the father of the plan for a midnight elopement. Enveloping himself in a cloak, with a cat-o'-nine-tails in his hand, he awaits developments. Soon the crew steal in on tiptoe, and afterwards the two lovers, ready to escape ashore in the dingy. Captain Corcoran surprises them, but, to his amazement, Ralph Rackstraw openly and defiantly avows his love, while the crew chant his praises as an Englishman :-
A French, or Turk, or Proosian,
To belong to other nations
Even for the well-bred skipper this is too much. He explodes with a "big, big d --." Sir Joseph hears the bad language and is horrified. He will hear of no explanations. Captain Corcoran is banished to his cabin in disgrace.
The First Lord is destined to receive still another shock. He hears of the attachment between Josephine and Ralph. The "presumptuous mariner" is ordered to be handcuffed and marched off to the dungeon. But it is after this that we hear the biggest surprise of all - and from the lips of Little Buttercup. She recalls that in the years long ago she practised baby farming, and to her care were committed two infants, "one of low condition, the other a patrician." Unhappily, in a luckless moment she mixed those children up, and the poor baby really was Corcoran and the rich one Ralph Rackstraw. Ralph thereupon enters in a captain's uniform. Corcoran follows him in the dress of a mere able-seaman. Sir Joseph decides that, although love levels rank in many cases, his own marriage with a common sailor's daughter is out of the question, and he resigns himself then and there to his venerable cousin, Hebe. Ralph claims his Josephine, while the fallen Corcoran links his future with that of the bumboat woman, Little Buttercup.
"THE PIRATES OF PENZANCE."
Produced April 30th, 1880.
SHELTERED in the Cornish coast was the hiding place of a band of tender-hearted pirates. Never was the trade of the skull-and-cross-bones followed by men of such sensitive and compassionate feelings. They made it a point of honour never to attack a weaker party, and whenever they attempted to fight a stronger one they invariably got thrashed. Orphans themselves, they shrank from ever laying a molesting hand on an orphan, and many of the ships they captured had to be released because they were found to be manned entirely by orphans. Little wonder was it that these Pirates of Penzance could not make the grim trade of piracy pay.
The curtain rises on a scene of revelry. Frederic has just completed his pirate apprenticeship and is being hailed as a fully-fledged member of the gang. That he had been indentured with them at all was a mistake. When he was a lad his nurse was told to take and apprentice him to a pilot, and when she discovered her stupid blunder she let him stay with the pirates, and remained with them herself as a maid-of-all-work rather than return to brave the parental fury. Frederic, at all times the slave of duty, has loyally served out his time, but now he announces that not only will he not continue at a trade he detests, but he is going to devote himself heart and soul to his old comrades' extermination. The declaration turns the camp from joy into mourning, but these very scrupulous pirates have to admit that a man must act as his conscience dictates, and they can only crave that the manner of their deaths may be painless and speedy.
Frederic has never seen a woman's face - no other woman's face, at least, but Ruth's, his old nurse, who adores him - and thus there come as a vision of loveliness to him the figures of the many daughters of Major-General Stanley. They have penetrated into the rocky cove during a picnic. Frederic, sensitive about his detested dress, hides from them for a while, but soon he reveals himself and entreats them all to stoop in pity so low as to accept the hand and heart of a pirate. Only one of them, Mabel, is ready to take him for what he is, and the love-making between the two is swift and passionate. It is interrupted by the return of the gang, each member of which seizes a girl and claims her as his bride, and during this lively interlude there arrives old General Stanley. He has lagged behind the rest of the party.
The General, a resplendent figure in his uniform, knows a good deal about the most abstruse and complicated sciences, though he proclaims that he knows no more of tactics than a novice in a nunnery. In this he holds himself to be "the very model of modern major-general." Completing the candid recital of his attainments and want of them, he inquires what strange deeds are afoot, and he has no liking either for pirates as sons-in-law or for the prospect of being robbed wholesale of his daughters. But where is the way of escape? Luckily the General has heard of these Penzance pirates before, and he wrings their sympathy with the sad news that he, too, is "an orphan boy." For such tender-hearted robbers that is enough. They surrender the girls, and with them all thoughts of matrimonial felicity, and restore the entire party to liberty.
The second act is laid in a ruined chapel at night. General Stanley, surrounded by his daughters, has come to do penance for his lie before the tombs of his ancestors, who are his solely by purchase, for he has owned the estate only a year. Frederic is now to lead an expedition against the pirates. For this perilous mission he has gathered together a squad of police, who march in under their sergeant, all of them very nervous and under misgivings that possibly they may be going to "die in combat gory." Soon after they have left there is a whimsical development. Frederic, alone in the chapel, is visited by the Pirate King and Ruth. Covering him first of all with their pistols, they tell him that they have remembered that he was born on the 29th of February, and that as he thus has a birthday only every four years he is still but five years of age!
Frederic, as we have observed before, has a keen sense of duty. In blank despair he agrees to return to the gang to finish his apprenticeship. Once more a member of the band, he is bound also to disclose the horrible fact that the old soldier has practised on the pirates' credulous simplicity, and that in truth he is no orphan boy. The Pirate King decrees that there shall be a swift and terrible revenge that very night.
When all have left but Mabel, who declares that she will remain faithful to her lover until he has lived his twenty-one leap-years, there re-enter the police. The sergeant laments that the policeman's lot is not a happy one. It is distressing to them to have to be the agents whereby their erring fellow-creatures are deprived of the liberty that everyone prizes.
Sounds are heard that indicate the pirates' approach. The police conceal themselves, and soon the intruders enter, armed with all kinds of burglarious tools, and with a cat-like tread (they say so, at least, though they are singing their loudest). They are interrupted, not by the police, but by the appearance of General Stanley. He has had a sleepless night, the effect of a tortured conscience, and he comes in in a dressing-gown and carrying a light. Soon his daughters also appear in their night-caps. The General is seized and ordered to prepare for death. Frederic, even on Mabel's entreaties, cannot save him, for is he not himself a pirate again?
Eventually the police, having passively watched the situation so long, summon up courage and tackle the pirates, but they are soon overcome. The sergeant, who with the rest of his men is held prostrate under drawn swords, then calls upon the ruffians to surrender in the name of the Queen. The command acts like magic. Loyally the pirates kneel to their captives, for it transpires from Ruth's lips that they are really "no members of the common throng ; they are all noblemen who have gone wrong." All ends happily. The Pirates of Penzance promise to return forthwith to their legislative duties in the House of Lords and, in doing so, they are to share their coronets with the beautiful daughters of old General Stanley.
Produced April 23rd, 1881.
THERE is satire in the very name of this opera. The craze for æstheticism against which it was directed must have placed a strain on the patience of so brilliant an exponent of British commonsense as Sir William Gilbert.
Shortly before the play opens, twenty of the maidens of the village adjoining Castle Bunthorne had fallen in love with the officers of the 35th Heavy Dragoons. But when Reginald Bunthorne, a fleshly poet and a devotee of the æsthetic cult, arrived at the castle, they had fallen out of love with their Dragoons and united with Lady Jane (of uncertain age) in worshipping him. When the curtain rises the "twenty love-sick maidens" are lamenting that Bunthorne is "ice-insensible." Lady Jane tells them that he loves Patience, the village milkmaid - who is seen regarding them with pity. Lady Angela tells Patience that if she has never loved she can never have known true happiness. Patience replies that "the truly happy always seem to have so much on their minds," and "never seem quite well." Lady Jane explains that it is "Not indigestion, but æsthetic transfiguration." Patience informs the ladies that the 35th Dragoon Guards have arrived. Lady Ella declares, " We care nothing for Dragoon Guards." "But," exclaims Patience, "You were all engaged to them." "Our minds have been etherealised, our perceptions exalted," answers Lady Angela, who calls on the others to lift up their voices in morning carol to "Our Reginald."
The 35th Dragoons arrive and the Colonel gives us in song :-
Known to the world as a Heavy Dragoon."
One of them who arrives later looks miserable, but declares "I'm as cheerful as a poor devil can be, who has the misfortune to be a Duke with a thousand a day." His wretchedness is not relieved by the entrance of Bunthorne, followed by the maidens, who ignore the Dragoons. The Poet pretends to be absorbed in the composition of a poem, but he slyly observes, "I hear plainly all they say, twenty love-sick maidens they." Lady Jane explains to the soldiers that Bunthorne has idealised them. Bunthorne meanwhile is to be seen writhing in the throes of composition. "Finished!" he exclaims and faints in arms of the Colonel. When he recovers, the love-sick maidens entreat him to read the poem. "Shall I?" he asks. Fiercely the Dragoons shout "No!" but bidding the ladies to "Cling passionately to one another," he recites "Oh, Hollow! Hollow! Hollow!" When the Colonel reminds the ladies that they are engaged to the Dragoons, Lady Saphir says, "It can never be. You are not Empyrean," while Lady Jane sneers at the crudity of their red and yellow uniforms. The Dragoons resent this "insult" to a uniform which has been "as successful in the courts of Venus as in the field of Mars," and lament that "the peripatetics of long-haired æsthetics" should have captured the ladies' fancy. Angrily they return to their camp.
Bunthorne, left "alone and unobserved," confesses to being an "æsthetic sham." "In short," he says, "my mediævalism's affection, born of a morbid love of admiration." Then Patience enters, and he makes love to her. She repulses him, and tragically he bids her farewell. Lady Angela implores her to "Try, try, try to love," She dilates upon the "Ennobling and unselfish passion" until Patience declares, "I won't go to bed until I'm head over ears in love with somebody." Patience soliloquises, "I had no idea love was a duty. No wonder they all look so unhappy. I'll go at once and fall in love with -" but stops, startled by a figure almost as grotesque as Bunthorne, and exclaims, "A stranger!" The stranger is Archibald Grosvenor, an idyllic poet, who plunges boldly into a declaration of love with his "Prithee pretty maiden, will you marry me." Patience replies, "I do not know you and therefore must decline." He reveals that he was her sweetheart in childhood's days. Grosvenor begs Patience imagine "The horror of his situation, gifted with unrivalled beauty, and madly loved at first sight by every woman he meets." When Patience enquires why he does not disfigure himself to escape such persecution, he replies, ''These gifts were given to me for the enjoyment and delectation of my fellow creatures. I am a trustee for beauty." Grosvenor and Patience plight their troth, but as she remembers that love must be unselfish, and that Grosvenor is so beautiful that there can be no unselfishness in loving him, they bid each other "Farewell." Just as they are parting it occurs to Patience that it cannot be selfish for Grosvenor to love her, and he promises, "I'll go on adoring."
Bunthorne, crowned and garlanded with roses, returns accompanied by his solicitor and the ladies. The Dragoons arrive also, and ask Bunthorne why he should be so arrayed. He explains that, heart-broken by Patience's rejection, and on the advice of his solicitor, he has put himself up to be raffled for by his admirers. The Dragoons make a fruitless apeal to the ladies in a song by the Duke. The drawing is about to take place when Patience enters, craves Bunthorne's pardon, and offers to be his bride. When Bunthorne rejoices that this is due to the fact that she loves him fondly, Patience tells him that it is because "A maiden who devotes herself to loving you, is prompted by no selfish view."
This scene leads to a temporary reconciliation between the Dragoons and the ladies, who embrace each other and declare that "Never, oh never, this heart will range from that old, old love again." Then Grosvenor enters. He walks slowly, engrossed in reading. The ladies are strangely fascinated by him and gradually withdraw from the arms of their martial admirers. Lady Angela asks :-
Proclaims he comes of noble race."
Grosvenor replies : "I'm a broken-hearted troubadour.........I am æsthetic and poetic." With one voice the ladies cry "Then we love you," and leaving their Dragoons they kneel round Grosvenor, arousing the fury of Bunthorne and the horror not only of the Dragoons, but of Grosvenor himself, who declares that "Again my cursed comeliness spreads hopeless anguish and distress."
The curtain falls on this scene, and when it rises again Lady Jane is discovered soliloquising upon the fickle crew who have deserted Bunthorne and sworn allegiance to Grosvenor. She alone is faithful to Bunthorne. Grosvenor enters, followed by the twenty love-sick maidens, pleading for "A gentle smile." He reads them two decalets, and wearying of their worship, he tells them that his heart is fixed elsewhere, and bids them remember the fable of the magnet and the churn.
Bunthorne and Lady Jane return. The poet is indignant that Grosvenor has cut him out. Lady Jane's assures him that she is still faithful, but promises to help him to vanquish his rival, and to achieve this purpose they concert a plan.
Then the Duke, the Colonel and the Major appear. They have discarded their uniforms and adopted an æsthetic dress and make-up, and they practise the attitudes which they imagine will appeal to the ladies. When two of these appear, it is evident that the plan is succeeding, for Lady Angela exclaims, "See! The immortal fire has descended upon them." The officers explain they are doing this at some personal inconvenience to show their devotion, and hope that it is not without effect. They are assured that their conversion to the æsthetic art in its highest development has touched the ladies deeply.
In due course the officers and ladies disappear and give place to Grosvenor. Looking at his reflection in a hand mirror, he declares, "Ah! I am a veritable Narcissus." Bunthorne now wanders on, talking to himself, and declaring that he cannot live without admiration. He accuses Grosvenor of monopolising the attentions of the young ladies. Grosvenor assures him that they are the plague of his life, and asks how he can escape from his predicament. Bunthorne orders him completely to change his appearance, so as to appear absolutely common-place. At first Grosvenor declines, but when Bunthorne threatens to curse him., he yields cheerfully, and Bunthorne rejoices in the prospect that :-
All sighing and burning,
And clinging and yearning
Will follow me as before."
Patience enters to find him dancing, and he tells her that, in future, he will be a changed man, having modelled himself upon Grosvenor. She expresses joy, but then recoils from him as she remembers that, as he is now to be utterly free from defect of any kind, her love for him cannot be absolutely unselfish.
Just as Bunthorne is offering to relapse, Grosvenor enters, followed by the ladies and the Dragoons. Grosvenor has assumed an absolutely commonplace appearance. They all dance cheerfully round the stage, and when Bunthorne asks the ladies "What it all means," they tell him that as Grosvenor or "Archibald the All-right cannot be all wrong," and as he has discarded æstheticism, æstheticism ought to be discarded." Patience now discovers that she is free to love Grosvenor. Bunthorne is disappointed, but Lady Jane, who is still æsthetic tells him to cheer up, as she will never forsake him. They have scarcely time to embrace before the Colonel announces that the Duke has determined to choose a bride. He selects Lady Jane, greatly to the disgust of Bunthorne, who, finding himself the odd man out, declares, "I shall have to be contented with a tulip or lily."
Produced November 25th, 1882.
IOLANTHE was a Fairy - the life and soul of Fairyland. She wrote all the fairy songs and arranged the fairy dances. For twenty-five years Iolanthe has been in banishment. She had transgressed the fairy law by marrying a mortal, and it was only the Queen's love which saved her from death.
When the curtain rises we witness a gathering of fairies, hear them sing one of Iolanthe's songs, and see them trip her measures. They lament her absence and plead for her pardon. Compassion allied to curiosity impels the Queen to recall Iolanthe. For Iolanthe had chosen to dwell at the bottom of a stream, on whose banks we see the fairies disporting themselves. Rising from the pool, clad in water-weeds, Iolanthe receives the Royal pardon. Compassion having been exercised, curiosity demands satisfaction. The Queen enquires why Iolanthe should have chosen to live at the bottom of a stream. Iolanthe then reveals her secret. She has a son who was born shortly after her banishment, and she wished to be near him. The Queen and the other fairies are deeply interested, and just as the Queen is expressing her desire to see the "half-fairy, half-mortal" Arcadian shepherd, Strephon, he dances up to Iolanthe, and with song and pipe urges her to rejoice because "I'm to be married to-day." Iolanthe tells Strephon that she has been pardoned, and presents Strephon to the Queen and to her fairy sisters. "My aunts!" exclaimed Strephon with obvious delight.
Strephon explains the peculiar difficulties consequent on being only half a fairy, and the Queen promises that henceforward the fairies will always be ready to come to his aid should be he in "doubt or danger, peril or perplexitee." Strephon is now joined by Phyllis - a beautiful ward of Chancery and his bride-elect. In the prelude to one of the most delightful love-songs ever written, Phyllis reveals her fear of the consequences which may fall upon Strephon for marrying her without the consent of the Lord Chancellor, and Strephon demonstrates that his fairy ancestry has not freed him from the pangs of jealousy.
We now witness the entrance and march of the peers in their gorgeous robes, to the strains of magnificent music, ending with a chorus which is assumed to embody the traditional attitude of the peers to the people :-
Bow, bow ye tradesmen, bow ye masses."
The Lord Chancellor enters at the conclusion of this chorus, and after a song upon his responsibilities as "The constitutional guardian I, of pretty young wards in Chancery," he announces that the business before the House concerns the disposal of the hand of Phyllis, a Ward of Court. All the peers have fallen in love with her and wish the Lord Chancellor to bestow her upon the one whom she may select. The Lord Chancellor confesses to being "singularly attracted by this young person" and laments that his judicial position prevents him from awarding her to himself. Phyllis arrives, and after being proposed to by Lord Tolloller and Lord Mount-Ararat, the whole of the peers invite her acceptance of their coronets and hearts. Phyllis tells them that already "her heart is given." The Lord Chancellor indignantly demands the name of her lover. Before Phyllis can reply, Strephon opportunely enters the "House" and claims "his darling's hand." The peers depart, dignified and stately, with haughty and disdainful glances upon the lovers.
The glee with which Strephon and Phyllis have regarded their departure is suddenly ended by the wrathful "Now, sir!" of the Lord Chancellor, who separates the lovers and bids Phyllis depart. His severe and sarcastic admonitions leave Strephon lamenting. Iolanthe returns to find her son in tears. As she tenderly consoles him, Phyllis stealthily re-enters escorted by the peers. Knowing nothing of her lover's fairy origin, and seeing him embracing one who appears equally young and beautiful as herself, she breaks from the hands of the peers just as Iolanthe and Strephon are parting, and accuses the latter of shameless deceit. Strephon's explanation that "this lady's my mother" is disbelieved by Phyllis and greeted with derision by the peers, who decline to admit that "a maid of seventeen" can be the mother of "a man of four or five-and-twenty." Believing herself to have been deceived by Strephon, Phyllis now ruefully offers to accept either Tolloller or Mount-Ararat, but doesn't care which. Just as she has placed the noble lords in this quandary, Strephon re-appears, and invokes the aid of the Fairy Queen. Instantaneously the fairy band are seen "tripping hither, tripping thither" among the amazed peers, while the slender Lord Chancellor encounters a rude shock when he collides with the massive form of the Queen. Strephon tells his tale of woe, and there follows an amazing and amusing exchange of reproach and ridicule. The infuriated Queen determines to punish the peers. Strephon shall go into Parliament to wreak vengeance on them. The recital of the measures which he is to carry through Parliament alarms the peers, and the first Act ends, after a pretence at defiance, in their vainly suing for mercy.
The second Act of "Iolanthe" is staged in the Palace Yard at Westminster. A solitary sentry is discovered moralising upon the proceedings in "that House." He has observed that if the members have :-
They've got to leave that brain outside
And vote just as their leaders tell 'em to."
Presently the fairies reappear and rejoice over Strephon's success as a member of Parliament. Then the peers enter and reveal their annoyance with Strephon, whom they describe as "a Parliamentary Pickford - he carries everything." A heated argument ensues between the fairies and the peers. It is ended by a song from Mount-Ararat in praise of the House of Peers, which sparkles with satire on the members of that ancient institution, who make "no pretence to intellectual eminence or scholarship sublime."
Having pleaded in vain that the fairies should prevent Strephon from doing further mischief, they depart in anger, and the Queen enters to find her band gazing wistfully after them. Scenting danger, the Queen calls upon them to subdue this "weakness." Celia retorts that "the weakness is so strong." The Queen replies by protesting that, although she herself is not "insensible to the effect of manly beauty" in the person of the stalwart Guardsman still on sentry-go, she is able to subdue her feelings, though in the famous "Captain Shaw" song which follows she asks :-
With cold cascade
Quench my great love, I wonder?"
Phyllis now re-appears, seeming very unhappy, and is presently joined by Tolloller and Mount-Ararat, who wrangle as to which shall yield her to the other. Phyllis implores them not to fight for her. "It is not worth while," she declares, and after a moment's reflection they agree that "the sacred ties of friendship are paramount." Following the departure of the trio there enters the Lord Chancellor looking dejected and very miserable. He, too, it will be remembered, had fallen in love with Phyllis, and he now mourns aloud that "love unrequited robs him of his rest." Mount-Ararat and Tolloller join him and express their concern at his woe-begone appearance. He explains, and they persuade him to make another application to himself for permission to marry Phyllis. Then Phyllis and Strephon encounter each other in the Palace Square. Taunted by a reference to his "young" mother, Strephon discloses that she is a fairy. This leads to a reconciliation. Iolanthe joins them, and when they ask her to appeal to the Lord Chancellor for his consent to their marriage, she reveals the secret of her life. The Lord Chancellor is her husband! He thinks her dead, and she is bound under penalty of death not to undeceive him. The Lord Chancellor enters exclaiming "Victory! victory!" In the highest spirits he relates how he had wrested from himself permission to marry Phyllis. Then Iolanthe, still hiding her identity, pleads Strephon's cause. When he refuses her plea, she determines to gain happiness for her son even at the cost of her own life. Despite the warning song of her fairy sisters, Iolanthe shocks the Chancellor with the words, "It may not be - I am thy wife."
The Fairy Queen breaks in upon this tragic episode with the threat of Iolanthe's doom, but ere it can be pronounced the Fairy Leila tells the Queen that if Iolanthe must die so must they all, for all have married peers. Bewildered by this dilemma the Fairy Queen is greatly relieved when the Lord Chancellor suggests that instead of the fairy law reading "Every fairy must die who marries a mortal" it should be "Every fairy must die who don't marry a mortal." Accepting the suggestion the Queen finds her own life in peril. She proposes to the stalwart Grenadier still on duty, who gallantly accepts. The peers also agree to exchange the "House of Peers for House of Peris." Wings spring from their shoulders and away they all fly, "Up in the sky, ever so high," where "pleasures come in endless series."
Produced January 5th, 1884.
PRINCESS IDA was the daughter of King Gama, and when but twelve-months' old, she had been betrothed to Prince Hilarion, the two-year-old son of King Hildebrand. The opening scene presents King Hildebrand and his courtiers awaiting the arrival of King Gama and Princess Ida for the celebration of the nuptials in accordance with the marriage contract. Some doubt exists as to whether this will be honoured, for Prince Hilarion has heard that his bride has "forsworn the world." It is presently announced that Gama and his train are approaching. His appearance is preceded by that of three bearded warriors clad in armour, who declare that they are "Sons of Gama Rex," and naïvely add, "Like most sons are we, masculine in sex." They are followed by Gama, who fits in appearance Hildebrand's description of him as "a twisted monster -all awry." In a three-verse song Gama describes his own character in detail, each verse ending :-
And I can't think why."
Gama proceeds to justify the universal opinion by his venomous remarks to Hildebrand's courtiers, and when Hildebrand demands the reason for Ida's absence, he becomes insulting. Later, he relates that Ida has established and rules a Woman's University in Castle Adamant, from which all males are excluded. Gama tells Hilarion that if he addresses the lady most politely she may deign to look on him. Hildebrand bids Hilarion to go to Castle Adamant and claim Ida as his wife, but adds that if she refuses, his soldiers will "storm the lady." King Gama is detained as hostage, with the warning that "should Hilarion disappear, we will hang you, never fear, most politely, most politely." Gama and his three sons are then marched off to their prison cell.
In the second act, we are transported to Castle Adamant, and behold, in the gardens, Lady Psyche surrounded by girl graduates. Lady Blanche arrives, and reads to them the Princess Ida's list of punishments. One student is expelled for bringing in a set of chessmen, while another is punished for having sketched a perambulator. Then Princess Ida herself enters, and is hailed by the students as a "mighty maiden with a mission." Her address to the students is intended to demonstrate woman's superiority over man. Then Lady Blanche, in announcing a lecture by herself on abstract philosophy, reveals that the exclusion of the male sex from the university has not banished jealousy. Ida and the students enter the castle. Hardly have they gone, when Hilarion, accompanied by Cyril and Florian are seen climbing the garden wall. They don some collegiate robes which they discover, and are appropriately jocular regarding their transformation into "three lovely undergraduates." Surprised by the entry of Princess Ida, they determine to present themselves as would-be students, and she promises them that "if all you say is true, you'll spend with us a happy, happy time." The Princess leaves them alone, but as she goes Lady Psyche enters unobserved. She overhears their conversation, and is amazed by it, but not more so than Florian when he finds that Lady Psyche is his sister. The men entrust her with their secret. She warns them that discovery may mean death, and sings them a song which sums up the Princess Ida's teaching to the effect that man "at best is only a monkey shaved."
Melissa now enters. She learns that the visitors are men and loyally promises secrecy. Whilst they are heartily enjoying themselves Lady Blanche, who is the mother of Melissa, has observed them, and as all five are leaving the gardens, she calls Melissa and taxes her with the facts. Melissa explains the situation, and persuades her mother to assist Hilarion's plan.
In the next scene the Princess Ida and the students are seen at an alfresco luncheon. Cyril becomes tipsy, discloses the secret of the intruders, and scandalises the princess by singing an "old kissing song" :-
Sets my heart aflame - a?"
In her excitement at this revelation the Princess falls into the stream which flows through the gardens. Hilarion rescues her, but this gallant feat does not shake the lady's resolution, and she orders their arrest.
As they are marched away Melissa brings news of an armed band without the castle. Speedily Hildebrand, at the head of his soldiers, confronts Ida. The three sons of Gama, still clad in armour, warn her that refusal to yield means death. Hildebrand gives Ida until the next day to "decide to pocket your pride and let Hilarion claim his bride." The curtain falls upon the Princess hurling defiance at Hildebrand.
When the curtain rises for the third time, we discover that the outer walls and courtyard of Castle Adamant are held by Princess Ida's students, who are armed with battle-axes, and who sing of "Death to the invader." The Princess comes attended by Blanche and Psyche, and warns them that "we have to meet stern bearded warriors in fight to-day." She bids them remember that they have to show that they "can meet Man face to face on his own ground, and beat him there." But as she reviews her forces, she meets with disappointment. The lady surgeon declares that, although she has often cut off legs and arms in theory, she won't cut off "real live legs and arms." The armourer explains that the rifles have been left in the armoury "for fear . . . they might go off." The band-mistress excuses the absence of the band who "can't come out to-day." Contemptuously, Ida bids them depart. Lamenting the failure of her plan, she is surprised by the arrival of her father, who announces that he is to give a message from Hildebrand, and then return to "black captivity." The message is that, being loth to war with women, Hildebrand wishes Ida to consent to the disposal of her hand being settled by combat between her three brothers and three of Hildebrand's knights. Ida demands of her father what possesses him that he should convey such an offer. Gama replies: "He tortures me with torments worse than death," and in pity she yields to the proposal.
While the girls mount the battlements, Hildebrand and his soldiers enter, and there is a fight between Gama's sons and Hilarion, Cyril and Florian. The latter are victorious. Seeing her brothers lying wounded, Ida cries "Hold - we yield ourselves to you," and resigns the headship of the University to Lady Blanche. Sadly Ida admits the failure of her scheme. She had hoped to band all women together to adjure tyrannic man. To Hildebrand she says that if her scheme had been successful "at my exalted name posterity would bow." Hildebrand retorts, "If you enlist all women in your cause - how is this posterity to be provided?" Ida turns to Hilarion, admitting her error to him, and the opera ends with the company declaring :-
To treat as vanity the sway of love.
In no locality or principality
Is our mortality its sway above."
Produced March 14th, 1885.
ALTHOUGH this opera is entitled "The Mikado" very little is seen of that great potentate, which is quite in accordance with Japanese custom, so vastly different from ours in matters of Royalty. The opera concerns much more closely the adventures of Nanki-Poo, the Mikado's son and heir, who has fled in disguise from the Court to escape from Katisha, an elderly lady whom the Mikado had ordered him to marry within a week or perish.
Immediately after the opening chorus by the gentlemen of Japan the disguised Crown Prince enters. He is labouring under great excitement, and begs for information as to the dwelling of "a gentle maiden, Yum-Yum." One of the Japanese nobles asks, "Who are you?" and he replies in a delightful song :-
A thing of shreds and patches,
Of ballads, songs and snatches,
And dreamy lullaby."
In reply to a further question as to his business with the maiden, Nanki-Poo takes the gentlemen of Japan partly into his confidence. He explains that a year before he had fallen in love with Yum-Yum, who returned his affection. As, however, she was betrothed to her guardian Ko-Ko, a cheap tailor, he had left Titipu in despair. Learning that Ko-Ko has been condemned to death for flirting, he now hoped to find Yum-Yum free. Alas! for Nanki-Poo's hopes, they inform him that not only has Ko-Ko been reprieved, but that he has been elevated to the highest rank a citizen can attain, and is now Lord High Executioner. Pish Tush explains that, in order to circumvent the Mikado's decree making flirtation a capital offence, they have appointed Ko-Ko as Lord High Executioner, because, being under sentence of death himself, he cannot cut off anybody else's head until he has cut off his own.
Expressing his sense of the condescension shown to him by Pooh-Bah, that portly personage explains that although "a particularly haughty and exclusive person who can trace his ancestry back to "a protoplasmic, primordial, atomic globule," he mortifies his family pride. In proof of this he points out that, when all the other high officers of State had resigned because they were too proud to serve under an ex-tailor, he had accepted all their posts (and the salaries attached) at once, so that he is now First Lord of the Treasury, Lord Chief Justice, Commander-in-Chief, Lord High Admiral, Master of the Buckhounds, Groom of the Back Stairs, Archbishop, and Lord Mayor.
Pooh-Bah informs Nanki-Poo that Yum-Yum is arriving from school that very day to be married to Ko-Ko. Ko-Ko enters, preceded by a chorus of nobles, and Pooh-Bah refers Nanki-Poo to him for any further information concerning Yum-Yum. This is Ko-Ko's first public appearance as Lord High Executioner, and after thanking the nobles for their welcome, he promises strict attention to his duties. Happily, he remarks, "there will be no difficulty in finding plenty of people whose loss will be a distinct gain to society at large." He proceeds to mention in a song that he's got "a little list" of possible victims and "they'll none of 'em be missed."
So far the opera has been an exclusively masculine affair, but Yum-Yum now arrives escorted by a bevy of dainty schoolfellows, who sing of their "Wondering what the world can be." This little chorus contains two exquisite verses :-
Sadness set to song? ..........Fantasies that fade ?
Is its beauty but a bubble, ......And the glory of its treasures
Bound to break ere long?" ..... Shadows of a shade?"
Yum-Yum and her bridesmaids, Peep-Bo and Pitti-Sing, introduce themselves by the delicious trio, "Three Little Maids." Ko-Ko and Pooh-Bah enter, and Yum-Yum reluctantly permits Ko-Ko to kiss her. At this moment, Nanki-Poo arrives and the "three little maids" rush over to him and welcome him with great effusion. Ko-Ko's jealousy is aroused, and he asks to be presented. Right boyishly Nanki-Poo blurts out to Ko-Ko that he loves Yum-Yum. He expects Ko-Ko to be angry, but instead Ko-Ko thanks him for agreeing with him as to the lady's charms. Presently Nanki-Poo and Yum-Yum manage to get the Courtyard to themselves. During their tête-a-tête Nanki-Poo reveals his secret to Yum-Yum. They are interrupted by the appearance of Ko-Ko and escape in different directions. As Ko-Ko soliloquises upon his beloved, he is interrupted by Pooh-Bah with a letter from the Mikado. This is an intimation that, as no executions have taken place in Titipu for a year, the office of Lord High Executioner will be abolished and the city reduced to the rank of a village unless somebody is beheaded within one month. As this would involve the city in ruin, Ko-Ko declares that he will have to execute someone. Pooh-Bah, pointing out that Ko-Ko himself is under sentence of death, suggests that he should execute himself. This leads to an acrimonious discussion, which is ended by Ko-Ko appointing Pooh-Bah, who is already holding all the other high offices of State, to be Lord High Substitute (for himself as a victim of the headsman). But Pooh-Bah declares "I must set bounds to my insatiable ambition." He draws the line at his own death.
Whilst Ko-Ko is lamenting the position as "simply appalling" he is disturbed by the entrance of Nanki-Poo with a rope in his hands. He has made up his mind to commit suicide because Ko-Ko is going to marry Yum-Yum. Finding "threats, entreaties, prayers all useless" Ko-Ko is struck with a brilliant idea. He suggests that Nanki-Poo should at the end of a month's time "be beheaded handsomely at the hands of the Public Executioner." To this Nanki-Poo agrees on condition that Ko-Ko permits him to marry Yum-Yum. Reluctantly Ko-Ko accepts the condition, and when Pooh-Bah returns to enquire what Ko-Ko has decided to do in regard to an execution, he replies, "Congratulate me! I've found a volunteer." Whilst the townsfolk of Titipu are bantering Nanki-Poo on the prospect of marriage and death, their revelry is interrupted by the arrival of the lady who was the cause of Nanki-Poo's wandering. Katisha discovers Nanki-Poo and calls upon him to "give me my place." When he refuses she would have revealed his identity, but every time she tries to say "He is the son of your Mikado" her voice is drowned by the singing of Nanki- Poo, Yum-Yum and the chorus. Eventually Katisha rushes away threatening furious vengeance.
When the curtain rises again the scene is the garden of Ko-Ko's palace. We see Yum-Yum decked by her bridesmaids for the wedding, while they sing of her loveliness, and Pitti-Sing bids her "Sit with downcast eye ; let it brim with dew." Pitti-Sing tells her also that "modesty at marriage tide well becomes a pretty bride," but this admonition seems lost upon a bride who, when her adornment is complete, frankly revels in her beauty. In "The Sun whose rays," a song of entrancing melody, she declares, "I mean to rule the earth as he the sky."
But her rapture is marred by the reminder from Peep-Bo that her bridegroom has only a month to live. Nanki-Poo finds her in tears, and has much difficulty in comforting her, their feelings being aptly expressed in that wonderful madrigal, which although it begins so joyfully with "Brightly dawns our wedding day," yet ends in tears. Ko-Ko now joins the wedding party, and although the sight of Yum-Yum in Nanki-Poo's arms is "simple torture," he insists on remaining so that he may get used to it. When Yum-Yum says it is only for a month, he tells of his discovery that when a married man is beheaded his wife must be buried alive. Naturally, Yum-Yum demurs to a wedding with such a hideous ending to the honeymoon, and Nanki-Poo declares that, as he cannot live without Yum-Yum, he intends to perform the "happy dispatch." Ko-Ko's protest is followed by the entry of Pooh-Bah to announce the approach of the Mikado and his suite. They will arrive in ten minutes. Ko-Ko, believing that the Mikado is coming to see whether his orders regarding an execution have been obeyed, is in great alarm. Nanki-Poo invites Ko-Ko to behead him at once, and Pooh-Bah agitatedly urges Ko-Ko to "chop it off," but he declares that he can't do it. He has "never even killed a blue-bottle." Ko-Ko decides that the making of an affidavit that Nanki-Poo has been executed, witnessed by Pooh-Bah in each of his capacities as Lord Chief Justice, etc., etc., will satisfy the Mikado. Pooh-Bah agrees on condition that he shall be "grossly insulted" with "cash down."
Then as Commissionaire Pooh-Bah is ordered to find Yum-Yum. Ko-Ko orders her to go along with the Archbishop (Pooh-Bah), who will marry her to Nanki-Poo at once. Waving aside all questions, Ko-Ko urges them off just as the procession heralding the Mikado and Katisha enters the garden to the strains of "Miya sama, miya sama." The Mikado extols himself as "a true philanthropist" and declares "my object all sublime, I shall achieve in time ; to let the punishment fit the crime." His list of social crimes and the penalties prescribed for each class of offender are equally amusing. Ko-Ko, Pooh-Bah and Pitti-Sing now kneel in the presence, and Ko-Ko informs the Mikado that "the execution has taken place" and hands in the coroner's certificate signed by Pooh-Bah. Then the three proceed to describe an event which had happened only in their imaginations.
The Mikado seems bored, and explains that though all this is very interesting, he has come about a totally different matter. He asks for his son, who is masquerading in Titipu under the name of Nanki-Poo. Ko-Ko and his associates are visibly disturbed, but he stammers out that Nanki-Poo has gone abroad. The Mikado demands his address. "Knightsbridge" is the reply. (At the time this opera was originally produced there was a Japanese colony in Knightsbridge.) Just then Katisha, reading the coroner's certificate, discovers that it contains the name of Nanki-Poo and shrieks her dismay. Pooh-Bah, Ko-Ko, and Pitti-Sing grovel at the Mikado's feet, and apologise abjectly. The Mikado urges them not to distress themselves, and just as they are feeling that it doesn't really matter, the Mikado turns to Katisha with "I forget the punishment for compassing the death of the heir-apparent." The three culprits learn with horror that it is "something humorous, but lingering, with either boiling oil or molten lead in it." The Mikado appoints "after luncheon" for the punishment which "fits their crime."
When the Mikado has departed Ko-Ko and Pooh-Bah decide that Nanki-Poo must "come to life at once." At this moment he and his bride cross the garden - leaving for their honeymoon. Ko-Ko explains that the Mikado wants Nanki-Poo, and Pooh-Bah ironically adds, "So does Katisha." But Nanki Poo fears that, in her anger at his marriage, Katisha will persuade the Mikado to order his execution, thus involving Yum-Yum in a worse fate. He therefore refuses to re-appear until Ko-Ko has persuaded Katisha to marry him. Then "existence will be as welcome as the flowers in spring."
As this seems to be the only way of escape, Ko-Ko seeks Katisha. At first she repulses him, but after he has told her in song the story of the little tom-tit that committed suicide because of blighted affection, she relents.
Now the Mikado returns from luncheon, and asks if "the painful preparations have been made." Being assured that they have, he orders the three culprits to be produced. As they again grovel at his feet, Katisha intercedes for mercy. She tells the Mikado that she has just married "this miserable object," indicating Ko-Ko. The Mikado is remarking "But as you have slain the heir-apparent" when Nanki-Poo enters saying "the heir-apparent is not slain." He is heartily welcomed by the Mikado, while Katisha denounces Ko-Ko as a traitor. Ko-Ko then explains everything to the Mikado's satisfaction, and the opera ends with the joyous strains of Nanki-Poo and Yum-Yum uniting in "the threatened cloud has passed away and fairly shines the dawning day," whilst the entire company help them -
Inaugurate our new career."
Produced January 22nd, 1887.
In the days of long, long ago there lived the wicked Sir Rupert Murgatroyd, baronet of Ruddigore. He spent all his leisure and his wealth in the persecution of witches, and the more fiendish his cruelties, the more he enjoyed the ruthless sport. But there came a day when he was roasting alive an old witch on the village green. The hag uttered a terrible curse both on the baronet and on all his descendants. Every lord of Ruddigore was doomed to commit one crime a day, and if he attempted to avoid it or became satiated with guilt, that very day he should die in awful agony. The prophecy came true. Each heir to the title inherited the curse and came in the end to a fearful death.
Upon this plot Gilbert wrote his clever burlesque on the transpontine drama - the drama of the virtuous peasant girl in the clutches of the bold and bad baronet - and amongst his characters is a tragic figure not unlike Shakespeare's Ophelia. The first scene is laid in the pretty Cornish fishing village of Rederring. This village, by the way, has a quaint institution in the form of a troupe of professional bridesmaids, who are bound to be on duty from ten to four o'clock every day, but whose services have of late been in little request. The girls can only hope that they may soon be able to celebrate the betrothal of Rose Maybud, the belle of Rederring, a precise little maid whose every action is regulated by a book of etiquette, written by no less an authority than the wife of a Lord Mayor. Should an utter stranger be allowed to pay her pretty compliments? "Always speak the truth," answers the book. It tells her that "in accepting an offer of marriage, do so with apparent hesitation," and this same guide and monitor declares that, in similar circumstances, "a little show of emotion will not be misplaced." Rose, indeed, has had very many suitors, but as yet her heart is free.
Early in the opera Dame Hannah, who was herself once wooed by the last baronet in disguise, relates the story of the terrible curse on the house of Murgatroyd. She is Rose's aunt, and she talks to the girl about Robin Oakapple, a young man who "combines the manners of a Marquis with the morals of a Methodist." Now, this same Robin Oakapple, we afterwards learn, is himself the real owner of Ruddigore, but ten years ago he so dreaded the thought of becoming the victim of the witch's malediction that he fled from his ancestral home, assumed the style and name of a simple farmer, and lived unsuspected in Rederring. In the belief that he was dead his younger brother succeeded to the baronetcy and all its obligations to a life of infamy. Only two know the secret - Robin's faithful servant, Old Adam, and his sailor foster-brother, Richard Dauntless.
Robin is such a shy fellow that he cannot summon up courage to propose to Rose Maybud. She, it seems, would not be unwilling to return his affections if he declared them and she gives more than a broad hint to her bashful lover in a delightful duet, "Poor Little Man." But Robin has to do his love-making by proxy. Luckily or otherwise, Richard has just returned from the sea, and this heart'y British tar sings a rollicking song in the Dibdin manner about how his man-o'-war, the Tom-Tit, "met a little French frigate", and how they had "pity on a poor Parley-voo." When "Ruddigore" was produced, this number gave grave offence to the French people, and there were critics at home who held that it reflected also on the British Navy. The storm, however, never led then and never would lead now to international complications, and what questions of taste there may be in the lyric are soon forgotten in the engaging hornpipe which follows the song.
Richard, who talks in nautical phrases and declares that he always acts strictly as his heart dictates, promises to help Robin in securing the hand of Rose Maybud. He at least is not afflicted with too much diffidence, and Robin himself sings the lines, which have now passed into a proverb, that if in the world you wish to advance "you must stir it and stump it and blow your own trumpet." But Richard, when he sees the girl, acts as his heart dictates and falls in love with her himself, the courtship scene being delightfully quaint. Robin returns to claim his bride, but when he finds that his foster-brother has played him false, he is not loth to praise his good qualities. Yet, in a trio, the fickle Rose, having the choice between a man who owns many acres and a humble sailor, gives herself to Robin Oakapple.
This incident is followed by the appearance of Mad Margaret, a crazy figure in white who lost her reason when she was jilted by the reigning baronet, Sir Despard Murgatroyd. The poor, distracted girl is still seeking for her faithless lover, and as she toys with her flowers she sings a plaintive and haunting ballad "To a garden full of posies." Following this strange scene, there arrive the Bucks and Blades - all wearing the regimental uniforms of Wellington's time, the period to which the opera is supposed to belong - and after them the gloomy Sir Despard. The crowd shrink from him in horror, while he, poor man, tells how he has really the heart of a child, but how a whole picture gallery of ancestors threaten him with death if he hesitates to commit his daily crime. Then Richard re-enters. Either because of his anger that Robin has claimed Rose's hand or because, at whatever cost, he must do as his heart dictates, he makes known to the baronet that his missing brother is none other than Robin Oakapple. When, a little later, the nuptial ceremony of the happy couple is about to begin, the festivities are interrupted by Sir Despard dramatically declaring Robin's real identity, and poor Robin has to forfeit Rose, who once more turns to Richard, and face a fateful existence as Sir Ruthven Murgatroyd.
For the second act the scene moves to the haunted Picture Gallery of Ruddigore Castle. Sir Ruthven, otherwise Robin, now wears the haggard aspect of a guilty roué, while the once-benevolent Old Adam acts the part of the wicked "confidential adviser of the greatest villain unhung." They discuss a likely crime for the day. It concerns Richard and Rose, who have arrived to ask for the baronet's consent to their marriage, and he retorts by threatening to commit them to a dungeon. This the sailor thwarts by waving a Union Jack. Then Rose prevails upon the wicked relative to relent. Left alone, the unhappy man addresses the portraits of his ancestors, bidding them to remember the time when they themselves welcomed death at last as a means of freedom from a guilty existence, and urging them to let the thought of that repentance "tune your souls to mercy on our poor posterity." The stage darkens for a moment, and then it is seen that the pictures have become animated and that the figures, representing the long line of the accursed race, and garbed magnificently according to the times in which each of the ancestors lived, have stepped from their frames. Sir Roderic, the last of the baronets to die, sings a spectral song about the ghostly revelries by night.
Now the ancestors remind their degenerate successor that it is their duty to see that he commits his daily crimes in conscientious and workmanlike style. They are not impressed with his record of the crimes he has so far committed. "Everybody does that," they tell him, when he declares that he has falsified his income-tax return, and they are also unmoved when he says that, on other days, he forged his own will and disinherited his unborn son. They demand that he must at least carry off a lady, and when he refuses they torture him until, in agony, he has to accept their command. When the ghosts have returned to their frames Old Adam is accordingly ordered to bring a maiden - any maiden will do - from the village.
Once more we meet Sir Despard and Mad Margaret. They are prim of manner, they wear black of formal cut, and in every way their appearances have changed. They are married and conduct a National School. The ex-baronet has become expert at penny readings. Margaret, new a district visitor, has recovered her sanity, though she has occasional lapses. The quaint duet between them is followed by a meeting with Robin, who hears that his record of infamy includes not only the crimes he has committed during the week, but all those perpetrated by Despard during the ten years he reigned at Ruddigore. He decides, even at the cost of his life, to bid his ancestors defiance. But now Old Adam returns, not with a beautiful maiden, but with old Dame Hannah. She is a tiger cat indeed, and despite the baronet's declaration that he is reforming and that his intentions towards her are honourable, she seizes a formidable dagger from one of the armed figures and declares for a fight to the finish. The episode is interrupted by the re-appearance of the ghostly Sir Roderic. What is more, he and Dame Hannah recognise themselves as old lovers, and a whimsical love-scene leads up to a tender little ballad about the "flower and the oak tree."
The end comes swiftly. Robin, accompanied by all the other characters, rushes in to declare his happy discovery. He argues that a baronet can die only by refusing to commit his daily crime, and thus it follows that a refusal to commit a crime is tantamount to suicide, which is in itself a crime. The curse will thus not stand logical analysis! Sir Roderic concurs, and as the natural deduction is that he himself ought never to have died at all, he and Dame Hannah are able at last to bring joy and laughter within the grim walls of Ruddigore. Robin, having found a week as holder of a title ample enough, determines to earn a modest livelihood in agricultural employment, and this time he both claims and keeps the hand of Rose Maybud. Richard, robbed of his intended bride, soon replaces her from amongst the troupe of professional bridesmaids, while Despard and Margaret leave to pass a secluded existence in the town of Basingstoke.
"THE YEOMEN OF THE GUARD."
Produced October 3rd, 1888.
JACK POINT was a poor strolling player in the days of old Merrie England. With pretty Elsie Maynard he tramped through the towns and villages, and everywhere the two entertained the good folk with their songs and their dances, their quips and their cranks. Jack Point could have been no ordinary jester. Some years before he had been in the service of the Archbishop of Canterbury, and he mortally offended his Grace by his conundrum that the only difference between the two of them was that "whereas his Grace was paid £10,000 a year for being good, poor Jack Point was good - for nothing." " 'Twas but a harmless jest," the Merry-man sadly reflected, but the Archbishop had him whipped and put in the stocks as a rogue, and Jack Point was in no humour to "take a post again with the dignified clergy."
Then began the vagabondage of the strolling player. Jack and Elsie made but a poor living, though they looked forward to the time when the smiles of fortune, the rewards of honest mirth, would allow them to marry. Certainly Jack Point had a pretty wit, and beneath the motley there beat a true heart of gold, too soon to be broken by tragedy. It was the old, old story of the jester who to the world's eye was a merry and boisterous fellow, though in his inner being he was suffering all the while the tortures of anguish. But list ye now to the story's unfolding!
The curtain rises on a faithful picture of the Tower of London, that picturesque and historic old fortress indissolubly connected with some of the brightest, and the darkest, annals of England. Soon we see the Yeomen of the Guard, clad in their traditional garb and carrying their halberds, and amongst them is old Sergeant Meryll. He has a daughter named Phbe, whose heart and hand is being sought in vain by the grim and repulsive-looking Wilfred Shadbolt, who links the office of head jailor with the "assistant tormentorship." It is part of this uncouth fellow's duty to twist the thumbscrew and turn the rack to wring confessions from the prisoners. So far from Phbe being attracted to Shadbolt, her thoughts are turned towards a young and handsome officer, Colonel Fairfax, who lies under sentence of death in the Tower by the evil designs of his kinsman, Sir Charles Poltwhistle, a Secretary of State. Fairfax has been condemned on a false charge of sorcery, though his cousin's craft is really to secure the succession to his rich estate, which falls to him if he dies unmarried.
Some hopes linger that the soldier may yet be reprieved. Leonard Meryll, the old sergeant's son, is coming from Windsor that day after the Court has honoured him for his valour in many martial adventures, and it is possible that he may bring with him the order that will save Colonel Fairfax. He does not bring the reprieve. Sergeant Meryll, whose life the condemned man has twice saved, and who would now readily give his own life for him, thereupon schemes a deception. Leonard's future career is to be with the Yeomen of the Guard, but as his arrival is unknown, it is arranged that he shall hide himself for a while and his place be filled by the imprisoned Fairfax. Just after this the Colonel himself comes into view, under an escort commanded by the Lieutenant, and on his way to the Cold Harbour Tower "to await his end in solitude." He treats death lightly - has he not a dozen times faced it in battle? - but he has one strange last request. Could he, as a means of thwarting his relative, be allowed to marry? The lady would be a bride but for an hour, and her legacy would be his dishonoured name and a hundred crowns, and "never was a marriage contracted with so little of evil to the contracting parties." The Lieutenant, who admires the brave fellow, believes that the task of finding him a wife should be easy.
Now we meet Jack Point and Elsie Maynard. Not a little terrified, they are chased in by the crowd, who bid them "banish your timidity and with all rapidity give us quip and quiddity." The choice of the wandering minstrels is their duet, "I have a song to sing, O!" Never was there a more enchanting ditty, and very significantly it tells of a merry-man's love of a maid, and of the humble maid -
At the moan of the merry-man, moping mum
Whose soul was sad, and whose glance was glum,
Who sipped no sup, and who craved no crumb,
As he sighed for the love of a ladye!"
Scarcely have the crowd finished applauding this offering than the Lieutenant enters, clears the rabble from the green, and inquires the history of Jack and Elsie. Jack tells him of their humble means of livelihood. Elsie is still unmarried, "for though I'm a fool," quoths the jester, "there is a limit to my folly." The Lieutenant then outlines his plan to make her a bride for an hour, and as the bargain seems a sound one and money is scarce, the two agree to the subterfuge, and Elsie is led into the Tower cell, blindfolded, to be wedded to Fairfax. Jack Point meanwhile tries on the officer some of his best conundrums and his incorrigible talent for repartee.
Shortly after this Phbe takes the keys of the prison from Shadbolt, her "sour-faced admirer," and Fairfax is thus restored to liberty in the guise of a Yeoman of the Guard. Fairfax, of course, is taken for Leonard and complimented on his successful campaigns. And then there tolls the bell of St. Peter's. The crowd enter, the executioner's block is brought on, and the masked headsman takes his place. But when the Yeomen go to to fetch the prisoner they find that the cell is empty, and that he has escaped. Shadbolt the jailer is arrested, and the people rush off in confusion, leaving Elsie insensible in the arms of her unknown husband, Fairfax. With this the curtain falls.
When it ascends once more on the same scene, the old housekeeper of the Tower, Dame Carruthers, chides the Yeomen on their failure both to keep and to re-capture Fairfax. Then Point and Shadbolt appear in very low spirits. For the Merry-man's dolefulness there is ample cause, and he himself laments how ridiculous it is that "a poor heart-broken man must needs be merry or he will be whipped." Shadbolt, envious of his companion's gifts, confesses to a secret yearning of his own to follow the jester's vocation, and the lugubrious fellow tells how deft and successful are his own delicate shafts of wit in the torture chamber and cells. Jack Point agrees, for a consideration, to teach Shadbolt "the rules that all family fools must observe if they love their profession." The consideration is that the jailor must declare that he shot Fairfax with an arquebus at night as he was attempting to swim over the Thames. The bargain is struck, and in a short time a shot is heard, and the jailor re-enters to declare that the escaped prisoner has been shot and drowned in the river. Fairfax himself has been lamenting that, although free from his fetters grim, he is still bound for good and ill to an unknown bride, a situation that leads up to the first of those delightful quartettes, "Strange Adventure." He meets Elsie, is attracted at once by her beauty, and learns the secret of her perplexity, though how can he proclaim his real self while he is still Leonard Meryll?
It is told us in a tuneful trio that "a man who would woo a fair maid should 'prentice himself to the trade and study all day in methodical way how to flatter, cajole and persuade." Certainly Fairfax knows these arts much better than Point. Before the jester's eyes he begins to fascinate the girl with sweet words and tender caresses, and the utter disillusionment of poor Jack Point, a victim of the fickleness of womankind and outwitted in love, is reflected in that haunting number, "When a wooer goes a wooing." Events now race towards their end - an end that to two at least has all the joyous warmth of romance, but to the one pathetic figure in his motley the blackness of despair. Leonard hastens in with the belated reprieve, and Elsie soon learns with happiness that the gallant Yeoman who has captured her heart is, in truth, her own strangely-wed husband, Fairfax. For her the hardship of the stroller's life has passed. So also has it for the broken Merry-man. Sadly he kneels by the girl who has forsaken his arms for another's, gently fondles and kisses the hem of her dress, bestows on her the sign of his blessing, and in the last tremor of grief falls at her feet - dead!
Produced December 7th, 1889.
"THE GONDOLIERS" tells of the strange and romantic fortunes of two sturdy Republicans who are called upon jointly to assume the responsibilities of Monarchy. They are Marco and Guiseppe Palmieri, who ordinarily follow the calling of Venetian gondoliers, and who hold staunchly to the doctrine that "all men are equal." Kingship does, indeed, seem rather less abhorrent to their ideas when they are summoned to fill that exalted office themselves, but at the same time they do concede that neither their courtiers nor their menials are their inferiors in any degree. Indeed, when they rise in the scale of social importance they see that their subjects rise too, and perhaps it is not surprising that in this quaint court of Barataria are functionaries basking in the splendour of such titles as the Lord High Coachman and the Lord High Cook. Even in the heart of the most democratic of mankind does the weakness for titles eternally linger!
It is in Venice, with a picturesque canal in the background, that the opera begins. The girls, their arms laden with roses white and roses red, are waiting for the most handsome and popular of all the gondoliers, who are coming to choose their brides from amongst this comely throng. So that, amidst such a bevy of loveliness, fate itself may select whom their partners shall be, the brothers decide to be blindfolded and to undertake to marry whichever two girls they catch. In this way Gianetta is claimed by Marco and Tessa by Guiseppe. And both were the very girls they wanted! Singing and dancing like the lightsome, joyous people they are, the couples hasten to the altar without more ado.
A Spanish grandee, the Duke of Plaza-Toro, now arrives by gondola with his Duchess and his daughter, Casilda. With them is their suite - the drummer-lad Luiz. The Duke is a celebrated, cultivated, underrated nobleman of impecunious estate, shabby in attire but unquestionably gentle in breeding. He laments that his entry into the town has not been as imposing as his station requires, but the halberdiers and the band are mercenary people, and their services were not available without prepayment in cash. Luiz is sent to announce the arrival of the ducal party to the Grand Inquisitor. While he is absent the Duke and Duchess tell their daughter the reason of their visit to Venice. She was married when only six months old to the infant heir to the Baratarian Throne. For State reasons the secret could not be told her before, and it seems that when her husband's father, then the reigning King, became a Wesleyan Methodist and was killed in an insurrection the baby bridegroom was stolen by the Inquisition.
Casilda takes no pleasure in this sudden accession to Queenship. She has nothing to wear, and besides that the family is penniless. That fact does not disturb the Duke. He has anticipated the problem already. Seeing that his social prestige is enormous, he is having himself floated as a company, the Duke of Plaza-Toro, Limited. He does not regard the proceeding as undignified. This Duke never did follow the fashions. He has made it his business to lead them, and he recalls how "in enterprise of martial kind" when there was any fighting, he "led" his regiment from behind, because "he found it less exciting." Such was this unaffected, undetected, well-connected warrior, the Duke of Plaza-Toro.
Left alone, Luiz and Casilda show themselves to be secretly in love with each other, and they bemoan the miserable discovery that has ruined the sweet dreams of the future. The Duke and Duchess in the meanwhile have gone to pay their respects to the Grand Inquisitor. They return with this lugubrious personage, garbed all in black, and present to him the little lady who, as he says, is so unexpectedly called upon to assume the functions of Royalty. Unfortunately he cannot introduce her to her husband immediately. The King's identity is a little uncertain, though there is no probable, possible shadow of doubt that he is one of two men actually in the town and plying the modest but picturesque calling of the gondolier. It seems that, after the little prince was stolen, he was placed in the charge of a highly-respectable gondolier who had, nevertheless, an incurable weakness for drink, and who could never say which of the two children in his home was his own son and which was the prince. That matter can be solved by their nurse, Luiz's mother, who is being brought from the mountains and whose memory will be stimulated, if need be, by the persuasive methods of the Inquisition.
The gondoliers now return with their brides. Tessa tells in a beautiful number how, when a merry maiden marries "every sound becomes a song, all is right and nothing's wrong." It was too sanguine a thought! The Grand Inquisitor, a gloomy figure amidst these festivities, finds the fact that Marco and Guiseppe have been married an extremely awkward one, and no less awkward their declaration that they are heart and soul Republicans. He does not tell them that one is married already - married to Casilda in infancy - but he does startle them by the news that one of them is a King. Sturdy Republicans as they are, they are loath to accept the idea of immediate abdication, and it is agreed that they shall leave for their country straightaway and, until the rightful heir is established, jointly hold the reins of government. The Grand Inquisitor for good reasons will not let their wives accompany them, but the separation may not be a long one, and the four speculate on the thrills of being a "right-down regular Royal Queen." With a fond farewell the gondoliers then set sail for their distant dominion.
When in the second act we see the Pavilion of the Court of Barataria - there in one corner is the double-seated throne - we see also the happy workings of a "monarchy that's tempered with Republican equality." Courtiers and private soldiers, officers of high rank and menials of every degree are enjoying themselves without any regard to social distinctions, and all are splendidly garbed. The Kings neither expect nor receive the deference due to their office, but they try to make themselves useful about the palace, whether by polishing their own crowns, running little errands for their Ministers, cleaning up in the kitchens, or deputising for sentries who go "in search of beer and beauty." It gives them, as Guiseppe sings, the gratifying feeling that their duty has been done, and in some measure it compensates for their two solitary grievances. One of these is that their subjects, while maintaining the legal fiction that they are one person, will not recognise that they have independent appetites. The other is - the absence of their wives. Marco is moved to describe the great specific for man's human happiness :-
Hidden ever and anon,
Take and keep them if you can!"
No sooner has he finished than the contadine enter, having braved the seas at the risks of their lives, for existence without their menfolk was dull and their womanly sense of curiosity strong. The re-union is celebrated by a boisterous dance (the cachucha). It is interrupted by the arrival of another unexpected visitor - the Grand Inquisitor.
The Grand Inquisitor, left alone with his protégés, first of all expresses his doubts whether the abolition of social distinctions is a workable theory. It had been tried before, and particularly by a jovial old King who, in moments of tipsy benevolence, promoted so many favourites to the top of the tree that "Lord Chancellors were cheap as sprats, and Bishops in their shovel hats were plentiful as tabby cats - in point of fact, too many." The plain conclusion was that "when everyone is somebodee, then no one's anybody." Then he tells them of the marriage of one of them in infancy. It is certainly an awkward predicament. Two men are the husbands of three wives! Marco, Guiseppe, Tessa and Gianetta try to solve the complicated plot.
Soon afterwards the ducal party arrive attired in the utmost magnificence. The Plazo-Toro issue has been most successful, and the Duke proceeds to describe how his money-making devices include those of securing small titles and orders for Mayors and Recorders, and the Duchess's those of chaperoning dubious ladies into high-class society. The Duke ceremoniously receives the two gondoliers, but he has to take exception to the fact that his arrival has been marked by no royal salutes, no guard of honour, and no triumphal arches. They explain that their off-handed people would not tolerate the expense. His Grace thereupon advises them to impress their court with their importance, and to the strains of a delightful gavotte he gives the awkward fellows a lesson in the arts of deportment.
Luckily, the tangled plot is swiftly and very happily solved on the appearance of the old foster mother, who declares that the missing Prince is none other than Luiz. He promptly ascends the throne and claims the hand of Casilda, while Marco and Guiseppe, their days of regal splendour completed, are glad enough to return with their wives to beautiful Venice, there to become "once more gondolieri, both skilful and wary."
Produced October 7th, 1893.
"UTOPIA LIMITED" is the story - and a very diverting story it is - of a remote country that is desperately anxious to bring itself "up-to-date." Utopia is somewhere in the Southern Pacific, and its inhabitants used to idle in easy, tropical langour amidst their picturesque palm groves. Idlers they were, that is to say, until they first heard of the wonders of England, for then it was that they determined that their land must be swiftly and completely Anglicised. The reformation was undertaken with the utmost zest. King Paramount's eldest daughter, the beautiful Princess Zara, has spent five years in England and taken a high degree as a "Girton Girl." She is due home once more at the time that the story of the opera begins, but already her people have heard of the wise and powerful country overseas, and already they have done much to re-model upon it their own manners, customs and forms of government.
Existence could never have been altogether dull in Utopia. It is ruled by a monarch, a despot only in theory, for the constitution is really that of a dynasty tempered by dynamite. This may seem a hard saying. The explanation of it is that the King, so far from being an autocrat, is watched over day and night by two Wise Men, and on his first lapse from political or social propriety he is to be denounced to the Public Exploder. It would then be this Court official's duty to blow him up - he always has about him a few squibs and crackers - and doubtless he would discharge this function with greater alacrity because he is himself Heir-Apparent. Clearly the King's lot is not a happy one, and no less so because the Wise Men insist that all sorts of Royal scandals and indiscretions shall be written by himself, anonymously, for the spicy columns of the "Palace Peeper." Generally his Majesty's agents contrive to buy each edition up, but isolated copies do occasionally get into unfriendly hands, and one of these contained his stinging little paragraph about his "goings-on" with the Royal Second Housemaid.
The King has two younger daughters, the Princesses Nekaya and Kalyba, who are being "finished" by a grave English governess, the Lady Sophy. Exceedingly modest and demure, with their hands folded and their eyes cast down, they are to be exhibited in the market place as patterns of what "from the English standpoint is looked upon as maidenly perfection." In particular they are to reveal the arts of courtship, showing how it is proper for the young lady to be coy and interestedly agitated in turn, and how she must always rehearse her emotions at home before the looking-glass. In the meanwhile the King, very deferential in manner, has an interview with his two Wise Men, Scaphio and Phantis. Notwithstanding that he seems a little hurt about the outrageous attacks on his morality which he has to write and publish at their command, he at least sees the irresistible humour of the strange situation, and he proceeds to sing a capital song about what a farce life is, alike when one's born, when one becomes married, and when one reaches the disillusioned years.
Zara now arrives from her long journey. She is escorted by Captain Fitzbattleaxe, together with four troopers of the 1st Life Guards, whose resplendent bearing immediately impress the maids of Utopia. She brings with her, moreover, six representatives of the principal causes which, she says, have tended to make England the powerful, happy and blameless country it is, and their gifts of reorganisation are to work a miracle in her father's realm. The King and his subjects are then and there introduced to these six "Flowers of Progress." One of them, Captain Fitzbattleaxe himself, is to re-model the Utopian Army. Sir Bailey Barre, Q.C., M.P., is a logician who, according to his brief, can demonstrate that black is white or that two and two make five, just as do the clever people of England. Then there is Lord Dramaleigh, a Lord High Chainberlan, who the Princess says is to "cleanse our court from moral stain and purify our stage." A County Councillor, Mr. Blushington, has come with a mind packed with civic improvement schemes, and the wicked music-halls he also intends to purify. Mr. Goldbury is a company promoter. He floats anything from stupendous loans to foreign thrones to schemes for making peppermint-drops. Last of all comes Captain Sir Edward Corcoran, R.N., to show King Paramount how to run an invincible Navy.
Joyously do the inhabitants hail these "types of England's power, ye heaven-enlightened band." The King is impressed most of all with the idea of a "company limited." Goldbury explains just what this means, and how one can start the biggest and rashest venture on a capital, say, of eighteen-pence, and yet be safe from liability. "If you succeed," he declares, "your profits are stupendous," whereas "if you fail pop goes your eighteen-pence." It strikes the King as rather dishonest, but if it is good enough for England, the first commercial country in the world, it is good enough for Utopia. What is more, he decides to go down to posterity as the first Sovereign in Christendom who registered his Crown and State under the joint Stock Company's Act, 1862. It is with this brilliant scheme that the first act comes to a close.
The second act is set in the Throne Room of the Palace. Fitzbattleaxe is with the Princess Zara, and he is lamenting how a tenor in love, as he is with her, cannot in his singing do himself justice. The two then discuss the remarkable changes that have come about since the country determined to be Anglicised. The King, when he enters soon afterwards, wears the dress of a British Field Marshal. He is to preside, according to the articles of association, over the first statutory Cabinet Council of Utopia (Limited). For this gathering the "Flowers of Progress" also arrive, and after they have ranged their chairs round in Christy Minstrel fashion, the proceedings open with a rollicking song by the King. This is the chorus :-
What a thorough Anglicising,
She is England - with improvements
Following the meeting comes the courtly ceremonial of the Drawing Room. All the ladies are presented in due form to his Majesty. Then, after a beautiful unaccompanied chorus, the stage empties.
Scaphio and Phantis, dressed as judges in red and ermine robes, now enter to storm and rage over the new order of things. All their influence has gone. The sundry schemes they had for making provision for their old age are broken and bankrupt. Even the "Palace Peeper" is in a bad way, and as to the clothes they have imported to satisfy the cravings for the English fashions, their customers plead liability limited to a declared capital of eighteen-pence. The King, whom they used to bully to their hearts' content, is no longer a human being, but a corporation. Once he doffed his Crown respectfully before speaking to them, but now he dances about in lighthearted capers, telling them that all they can do is to put their grievances in writing before the Board of Utopia (Limited). The two call into their counsels the Public Exploder. Between them they work out a plot. By a revolution the Act of 1862 must be at all costs repealed.
Shortly after the trio have departed to scheme out the details, there is a delightful scene between Lord Dramaleigh and Mr. Goldbury, and the two coy Princesses, Nekaya and Kalyba. The "shrinking sensitiveness" of these young ladies is held by themselves to be most thoroughly English. So far from that, the men have to tell them, the girls in the country they come from are blithe, frank and healthy creatures who love the freshness of the open air and the strenuous exertions of sport, and who are "in every pure enjoyment wealthy." (Gilbert, by the way, wrote this opera in the early nineties.) Loyally does Goldbury chant their eulogy :-
Then come you home and sing with me,
There's no such gold and no such pearl
As a bright and beautiful English girl."
Nekaya and Kalyba are quickly converted to the idea that to be her natural self is woman's most winsome quality. Then follows an interlude between the Lady Sophy, whose primness is merely a cloak for ambition, and the King. Compromising paragraphs in the society paper having been explained away, the two declare their mutual love, and soon they are caught by other couples in the act of dancing and kissing. No excuses are attempted and all engage in a wild festive dance.
Enter, now, the revolutionary band under the command of Scaphio, Phantis and the Public Exploder. They relate how the prosperity of Utopia has been brought to naught by the "Flowers of Progress." Suddenly the Princess Zara remembers that, in her great scheme of reform, the most essential element of all has been forgotten, and that was - party government! Introduce that bulwark and foundation of Britain's greatness and all will be well! Legislation will thus be brought to a standstill, and then there will be "sickness in plenty, endless lawsuits, crowded jails, interminable confusion in the Army and Navy, and, in short, general and unexampled prosperity." The King decrees that party government and all its blessings shall be adopted, and the opera ends with a song of homage to a brave distant isle which Utopia is henceforward to imitate in her virtues, her charities and "her Parliamentary peculiarities."
To which some add (but others do not) Ireland."
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