« The Grand Duke» est le dernier Savoy-opera écrit par le librettiste W. S. Gilbert et le compositeur Arthur Sullivan, leur quatorzième et dernier opéra ensemble. Il fut créé au Savoy Theatre le 7 mars 1896 et ne tint l’affiche que 123 représentations. Malgré une soirée d’ouverture réussie, la production a eu une durée relativement courte et a été le seul échec financier du duo, et les deux hommes n’ont plus jamais travaillé ensemble.
Dans « The Grand Duke», Gilbert et Sullivan bouclent la boucle, revenant au thème de leur première collaboration: une troupe d’acteurs prend le pouvoir politique. « The Grand Duke» souffre de de nombreux problèmes que l’on retrouvait déjà dans « Utopia Limited » — dont un livret long et décousu — et il exige pour les acteurs principaux des voix de plus grande qualité que leurs autres œuvres. Néanmoins, l’histoire contient un certain nombre de moments hilarants et de personnages drôles, les décors sont colorés et la musique est gaie et savoureuse. Certains trouvent que cet opéra est le plus sous-estimé des œuvres de Gilbert et Sullivan.
L'intrigue repose sur l'interprétation erronée d'une loi centenaire concernant les duels statutaires (décidé par tirage au sort). Par un tel duel statutaire, Ludwig, simple acteur, remplace le directeur de sa compagnie, Ernest. Mais il ne va pas s’arrêter là et devient le fer de lance de la rébellion contre le Grand-Duc Rudolph de Pfennig Halbpfennig, hypocondriaque et avare, contre qui il remporte aussi un duel statutaire. Il obtient ainsi tous ses pouvoirs et peut se fiancer à quatre femmes différentes avant que le complot ne soit découvert. Car, tout est bien qui finit bien : un avocat va tout dénoncer… Une fois encore les classes riches et la noblesse sont brocardées et, comme dans la « Princess Ida » , « The Mikado » , « The Gondoliers » et « Utopia, Limited », le fait que l’action se déroule à l’étranger enhardit Gilbert à utiliser une satire particulièrement pointue .
During the production of Gilbert and Sullivan's 1889 comic opera, The Gondoliers, Gilbert became embroiled in a legal dispute with producer Richard D'Oyly Carte over the cost of a new carpet for the Savoy Theatre and, more generally, over the accounting for expenses of the Gilbert and Sullivan partnership. Sullivan sided with Carte (who was about to produce Sullivan's grand opera, Ivanhoe), and the partnership disbanded. After The Gondoliers closed in 1891, Gilbert withdrew the performance rights to his libretti and vowed to write no more operas for the Savoy. The lawsuit left Gilbert and Sullivan somewhat embittered, and though they finally collaborated on two more works, these suffered from a less collegial working relationship than the two men had typically enjoyed while writing earlier operas.
Gilbert and Sullivan's penultimate opera, Utopia, Limited (1893), was a very modest success compared with their earlier collaborations. It introduced Gilbert's last protege, Nancy McIntosh, as the heroine, who received generally unfavourable press. Sullivan refused to write another piece if she was to take part in it. Discussions over her playing the role of Yum-Yum in a proposed revival of The Mikado led to another row between Gilbert and Sullivan that prevented the revival, and Gilbert's insistence upon her appearing in his 1894 opera, His Excellency, caused Sullivan to refuse to set the piece. After His Excellency closed in April 1895, McIntosh wrote to Sullivan informing him that she planned to return to concert singing, and so the obstacle to his further collaboration with Gilbert was removed. Meanwhile, Sullivan had written a comic opera for the Savoy Theatre with F. C. Burnand, The Chieftain, but that had closed in March 1895.
Gilbert had begun working on the story of The Grand Duke in late 1894. Elements of the plot were based on several antecedents including "The Duke's Dilemma" (1853), a short story by Tom Taylor, published in Blackwood's Magazine, about a poor duke who hires French actors to play courtiers to impress his rich fiancee. The story also contains the germ of the character of Ernest. In 1888, "The Duke's Dilemma" was adapted as The Prima Donna, a comic opera by H. B. Farnie that contains other details seen in The Grand Duke, including the Shakespearean costumes, a prince and princess who make a theatrical entrance. In addition, the plot shows similarities with the first Gilbert and Sullivan opera, Thespis, in which a company of actors gain political power. Gilbert read a sketch of the plot to Sullivan on 8 August 1895, and Sullivan wrote on 11 August to say that he would be pleased to write the music, calling Gilbert's plot sketch "as clear and bright as possible". The theme of Ernest (and then Rudolph) being legally dead while still physically alive was used in earlier works by Gilbert and, separately by Sullivan, for example Tom Cobb (1875) and Cox and Box (1867). Gilbert sold the libretto of the new piece to Carte and Sullivan for £5,000, and so he took no risk as to whether or not it would succeed.
Mr. and Mrs. Carte hired a new soprano, the Hungarian Ilka Pálmay, who had recently arrived in England and quickly made a favourable impression on London audiences and critics with her charming personality. Gilbert devised a new plot line revolving around Pálmay, making her character, Julia, an English actress among a company of German actors, with the topsy-turvy conceit that her "strong English accent" was forgiven by her audiences because of her great dramatic artistry. Rutland Barrington's role, Ludwig, became the leading comedian of the theatrical company and the central role in the opera. Gilbert had paired the title character with contralto Rosina Brandram, causing Sullivan to suggest some different pairings of the characters, but Gilbert and the Cartes disagreed; Mrs. Carte went so far as to caution Sullivan that his ideas would upset the casting. Unhappily for Gilbert, three of his usual principal players, George Grossmith, Richard Temple and Jessie Bond, who he had originally thought would play the title character, the prince and the princess, all left the company before rehearsals began for The Grand Duke, and so he reduced the size of these roles, further changing his original conception.
While Gilbert and Sullivan finished writing the show, the Cartes produced a revival of The Mikado at the Savoy Theatre, opening on 6 November 1895. Rehearsals for The Grand Duke began in January. Sullivan wrote the overture himself, effectively weaving together some of the best melodies in the opera. Gilbert made a few additional changes to the libretto shortly before opening night to avoid giving offense to Kaiser Wilhelm, possibly at the request of Sullivan, who valued the Kaiser's friendship. These included changing the name of the title character from Wilhelm to Rudolph.
Original production and reception
The opera premiered on 7 March 1896, and Sullivan conducted the orchestra, as he always did on opening nights. Costumes were by Percy Anderson. The opening night was a decided success, and the critics praised Gilbert's direction, Pálmay's singing and acting, Walter Passmore as Rudolph, and the cast in general. There were some reservations, however. The Times's review of the opening night's performance said:
“The Grand Duke is not by any means another Mikado, and, though it is far from being the least attractive of the series, signs are not wanting that the rich vein which the collaborators and their various followers have worked for so many years is at last dangerously near exhaustion. This time the libretto is very conspicuously inferior to the music. There are still a number of excellent songs, but the dialogue seems to have lost much of its crispness, the turning-point of what plot there is requires considerable intellectual application before it can be thoroughly grasped, and some of the jests are beaten out terribly thin."
The reviewer stated that the jokes might be funnier if the dialogue between them were "compressed". The Manchester Guardian concurred: "Mr. Gilbert's tendency to over-elaboration has nowhere shown itself so obtrusively.... Mr. Gilbert has introduced too many whimsical ideas which practically bear no relation to the story proper". Although the audience greeted the new piece enthusiastically, neither partner was satisfied. Sullivan wrote in his diary, "Parts of it dragged a little – dialogue too redundant but success great and genuine I think.... Thank God opera is finished & out." Gilbert wrote to his friend, Mrs. Bram Stoker: "I'm not at all a proud Mother, and I never want to see this ugly misshapen little brat again."
After the opening night, Sullivan left to recuperate in Monte Carlo. Gilbert reacted to the reviews by making cuts in the opera. These included three songs in Act II, and commentators have questioned the wisdom of these particular cuts, especially the Baroness's drinking song and the Prince's roulette song. The Grand Duke closed after 123 performances on 11 July 1896, Gilbert and Sullivan's only financial failure. It toured the British provinces for a year and was produced in Germany on 20 May 1896 at the Unter den Linden Theatre in Berlin and on a D'Oyly Carte tour of South Africa the same year. After this, it disappeared from the professional repertory, although Gilbert considered reviving it in 1909.
Analysis and subsequent history
The Grand Duke is longer than most of the earlier Gilbert and Sullivan operas, and more of the libretto is devoted to dialogue. Gilbert's cutting of parts of the opera after the opening night did not prevent it from having a shorter run than any of the earlier collaborations since Trial by Jury. In addition to whatever weaknesses the show had, as compared with earlier Gilbert and Sullivan pieces, the taste of the London theatregoing public had shifted away from comic opera to musical comedies, such as A Gaiety Girl (1893), The Shop Girl (1894) and An Artist's Model (1895), which were to dominate the London stage through World War I. One of the most successful musical comedies of the 1890s, The Geisha (1896), competed directly against The Grand Duke and was by far the greater success.
After its original production, The Grand Duke was not revived by the D'Oyly Carte Opera Company until 1975 (and then only in concert), and performances by other companies have been less frequent than most of the other Gilbert and Sullivan operas. 20th century critics dismissed the work. For example, H. M. Walbrook wrote in 1921, "It reads like the work of a tired man. ... There is his manner but not his wit, his lyrical fluency but not his charm. ... [For] the most part, the lyrics were uninspiring and the melodies uninspired." Of Gilbert's work in the opera, Isaac Goldberg opined, "the old self-censorship has relaxed", and of Sullivan's he concludes, "his grip upon the text was relaxing; he pays less attention to the words, setting them with less regard than formerly to their natural rhythms".
In the first half of the 20th century, The Grand Duke was produced occasionally by amateur companies, including the Savoy Company of Philadelphia and the Blue Hill Troupe of New York City, who pride themselves on producing all of the Gilbert and Sullivan operas. In America, it was mounted by professional companies, including the American Savoyards, beginning in 1959, and the Light Opera of Manhattan in the 1970s and 1980s. The BBC assembled a cast to broadcast the opera (together with the rest of the Gilbert and Sullivan series) in 1966 (led by former D'Oyly Carte comic Peter Pratt) and again in 1989. Of a 1962 production by The Lyric Theater Company of Washington, D.C., The Washington Post wrote, "the difficulties were worth surmounting, for the work is a delight. ... Throughout the work are echoes of their earlier and more successful collaborations, but Pfennig Halbpfennig retains a flavor all its own."
Since the D'Oyly Carte Opera Company released its recording of the piece in 1976, The Grand Duke has been produced more frequently. The New York Gilbert and Sullivan Players produced a concert version in 1995 and a full production in 2011. Writer Marc Shepherd concluded that the work "is full of bright comic situations and Gilbert's characteristic topsy-turvy wit. Sullivan's contribution has been considered first-rate from the beginning. The opera shows him branching out into a more harmonically adventurous Continental operetta style." The first fully staged professional revival in the UK took place in 2012 at the Finborough Theatre in London, starring Richard Suart in the title role, with a reduced cast and two-piano accompaniment. The Gilbert and Sullivan Opera Company presented a full-scale professional production with orchestra at the International Gilbert and Sullivan Festival later in 2012.
Includes parts of "The good Grand Duke", "My Lord Grand Duke, farewell!", "With fury indescribable I burn", "Well, you're a pretty kind of fellow", "Strange the views some people hold"
1. "Won't it be a pretty wedding?" (Chorus)
1a. "Pretty Lisa, fair and tasty" (Lisa and Ludwig with Chorus)
2. "By the mystic regulation" (Ludwig with Chorus)
3. "Were I a king in very truth" (Ernest with Chorus)
4. "How would I play this part" (Julia and Ernest)
5. "My goodness me! What shall I do?", "Ten minutes since I met a chap" (Ludwig and Chorus)
6. "About a century since" (Notary)
7. "Strange the views some people hold" (Julia, Lisa, Ernest, Notary, and Ludwig)
8. "Now take a card and gaily sing" (Julia, Lisa, Ernest, Notary, and Ludwig)
9. "The good Grand Duke" (Chorus of Chamberlains)
9a. "A pattern to professors of monarchical autonomy" (Grand Duke)
10. "As o'er our penny roll we sing" (Baroness and Grand Duke)
11. "When you find you're a broken-down critter" (Grand Duke)
12. Finale, Act I
"Come hither, all you people" (Ensemble)
"Oh, a monarch who boasts intellectual graces" (Ludwig with Chorus)
"Ah, pity me, my comrades true" (Julia with Chorus)
"Oh, listen to me, dear" (Julia and Lisa with Chorus)
"The die is cast" (Lisa with Chorus)
"For this will be a jolly Court" (Ludwig and Chorus)
13. "As before you we defile" (Chorus)
14. "Your loyalty our Ducal heart-string touches" (Ludwig with Chorus)
14a. "At the outset I may mention" (Ludwig with Chorus)
15. "Yes, Ludwig and his Julia are mated" (Ludwig)
15a. "Take care of him – he's much too good to live" (Lisa)
16. "Now Julia, come, consider it from" (Julia and Ludwig)
17. "Your Highness, there's a party at the door" (Chorus)
17a. "With fury indescribable I burn" (Baroness and Ludwig)
18. "Now away to the wedding we go" (Baroness and Chorus)
19. "So ends my dream", "Broken ev'ry promise plighted" (Julia)
20. "If the light of love's lingering ember" (Julia, Ernest, and Chorus)
21. "Come, bumpers – aye, ever-so-many" (Baroness with Chorus)
22. "Why, who is this approaching?" (Ludwig and Chorus)
23. "The Prince of Monte Carlo" (Herald and Chorus)
24. "His highness we know not" (Ludwig)
25. "We're rigged out in magnificent array" (Prince of Monte Carlo)
27. "Take my advice – when deep in debt" (Prince of Monte Carlo with Chorus)
28. "Hurrah! Now away to the wedding" (Ensemble)
28a. "Well, you're a pretty kind of fellow" (Grand Duke with Chorus)
29. "Happy couples, lightly treading" (Ensemble)
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Grand Duke (The) (1896-03-Savoy Theatre-London)Type de série: Original
Théâtre: Savoy Theatre (Londres - Angleterre) Durée : Nombre : 123 représentationsPremière Preview : jeudi 01 janvier 1970Première : jeudi 01 janvier 1970Dernière : jeudi 01 janvier 1970Mise en scène : Chorégraphie : Producteur : Avec : Mr. Walter Passmore (RUDOLPH (Grand Duke of Pfennig Halbpfennig)), Mr. Charles Kenningham (ERNEST DUMMKOPF (a Theatrical Manager)), Mr. Rutland Barrington (LUDWIG (his Leading Comedian)), Mr. Scott Russell (DR. TANNHUSER (a Notary)), Mr. Scott Fische (THE PRINCE OF MONTE CARLO), Mr. E. Carlton (VISCOUNT MENTONE), Mr.C. Herbert Workman (BEN HASHBAZ (a Costumier)), Mr. Jones Hewson (HERALD), Miss Emmie Owen (THE PRINCESS OF MONTE CARLO (betrothed to RUDOLPH)), Miss Rosina Brandram (THE BARONESS VON KRAKENFELDT (betrothed to RUDOLPH)), Miss Ilka Palmay (JULIA JELLICOE (an English Comédienne)), Miss Florence Perry (LISA (a Soubrette)), ...Presse : The Grand Duke, the last of Gilbert and Sullivan's operettas, although rarely performed, seems to inspire either love or hate! Even the author and composer had reservations about their last collaborative effort.
Sullivan wrote in his diary March 7, 1896: "...began new opera "Grand Duke" at 1/4 past eight - usual reception. Opera went well; over at 11:15. Parts of it dragged a little, dialogue too redundant, but success great and genuine I think. Thank God opera is finished and out."
And in a letter written to Frank Burnand March 12, 1896 from Monte Carlo: "Why reproach me? I didn't write the book!...I arrived here dead beat and feel better already. Another week's rehearsal with W. G. S. and I should have gone raving mad. I had already ordered some straw for my hair."
Gilbert was slightly more ambivalent about his creation, taking full blame for the opera's deficiencies. In a letter to Mrs. Bram Stoker he wrote: "...I have had rather a bad time of it, but now that the baby is born, I shall soon recover. I pick up very quickly (thank God!) after these little events. I'm not at all a proud Mother, and I never want to see this ugly misshapen little brat again."
The critics seemed to be of two minds, generally critical of the opera as a whole, while mindful of the fact that this would be the last opera produced by the great duo.
The Times set the tone for these reviews saying, "The welcome accorded to a new Gilbert and Sullivan opera increases...with each member of the famous series and its warmth is all the greater..." They went on, however: "The Grand Duke is not by any means another Mikado...the libretto is very conspicuously inferior to the music. There are still a number of excellent songs, but the dialogue seems to have lost much of its crispness."
The Musical Standard went even further, stating: "Mr. Gilbert is decidedly at his best in the first half of the second act...If the opera could only be compressed, for it becomes very wearisome in places."
On the other hand, The Daily Chronicle enthusiastically endorsed the opera, trumpeting: "His [Gilbert's] lyrics...teem with those quaint turns of expression expected..." and of the composer, "His music has all the olden attractiveness...For the time being he is the Sullivan of H.M.S. Pinafore, The Mikado, and The Gondoliers." Whatever your feelings about Gilbert and Sullivan and this last operetta, here is one final thought -- in his book Gilbert and Sullivan, Lost Chords and Discords, Caryl Brahms notes, "The next English musical collaboration to sweep five continents was the Beatles..."
Grand Duke (The) (2009-08-Opera House-Buxton)Type de série: Revival
Théâtre: Opera House (Buxton - Angleterre) Durée : Nombre : 1 représentationsPremière Preview : mercredi 12 août 2009Première : mercredi 12 août 2009Dernière : mercredi 12 août 2009Mise en scène : Gary Slavin • Chorégraphie : Producteur : Avec : Samuel Silvers (Grand Duke Rudolph), Matt Hughes (Ernest Dummkopf), Ronald Orenstein (Ludwig), William Revels (Dr. Tannhauser), Ian Henderson (The Prince of Monte Carlo), Marc Shepherd (Costumier), Eric Peterson (Herald), Rachel Middle (Princess of Monte Carlo), Angela Lowe (Baroness von Krakenfeldt), Jane Buchi (Julia Jellicoe), Sara Clark (Lisa), Jackie Mitchell (Gretchen), Romy McCabe (Olga), Karen Loxley (Elsa), Sarah-Jane Hall (Bertha), Philip Barton, Gordon Smethurst, Kelsey Thornton, Derrick McClure, Stuart Pinel, Rick DuPuy, Anthony Alman, Angie Arnell, Rob Barker, Lisa Berglund, Kate Bettison, Jay Bittle, Carol Davis, David Fidler, Arthur Kincaid, Deirdre Kincaid, Laurie Marks, Dorie Neanor, Janet Painter, Richard Penicard, John Penn, Celia Perry, John Sabberton, Sarah Vamplew, Chris Wain, Philip Walsh, Denise Wicken
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