From a 1984 performance (live, but with many voices dubbed) at Canada's Stratford Festival comes this version of Iolanthe, the Gilbert and Sullivan operetta in which the residents of Fairyland confront the House of Lords. ... more »A work in its authors' most whimsical vein, Iolanthe combines satire with fantasy, acid humor with voluptuous melodies, in the improbable way that G&S could pull off so skillfully. Stratford's production places the story within a frame--a 19th-century theater company's performance of Iolanthe. The device doesn't serve much purpose, except to imply the director's uncertainty that audiences can swallow this material without mediation. That anxiety shows in the production's overwrought style. The performers try hard, though: The distinguished contralto Maureen Forrester, while not exactly funny as the Queen of the Fairies, is as game as can be, letting herself be flown in on a swing and dressed up as the god Mars. As the Lord Chancellor, Eric Donkin is amusing but restrained, perhaps laboring to keep up with the ferocious lyrics he has to get through. Productions of Gilbert and Sullivan these days often include rewritten lyrics and dialogue; this one is loaded with them. The extent of the updating will alarm some viewers, but it's wholly in the spirit of the piece, since Gilbert's script is full of topical allusions that he wouldn't have expected to be meaningful more than a century later. Many of his political asides have, of course, been replaced with Canada-specific references, which will be of only limited value to non-Canadians. --David Olivenbaum« less
"First of all, so many of the lyrics have been reworded that one can scarcely call this a Gilbert and Sullivan at all! Sullivan, yes; Gilbert,no. For some reason, the director has decided to use a framing device: a fairly inept troupe is putting on a production of "Iolanthe." This works to the extent of a few mild laughs but the whole concept ruins the beauty of the work and detracts from the intended satire. Now and then, as in the Act I finale, Sullivan's music is distorted into something entirely at odds with his score: in this case, a minstrel-show beat for no particular reason. So while this is a visually pleasing venture, it is not what the box advertizes. Caveat emptor, you know."
Spirited interpretation of Gilbert and Sullivan
Raymond Burleigh | San Jose, CA United States | 02/06/2001
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Like so many opera films, this presentation is a film of a stage show. Rather than ignore this, the producers include behind the scenes vignettes of the company and stage hands. These brief interludes provided amusing transitions between parts of the opera and were not overdone. The playful spirit is in keeping with the irreverant tone of sirs G&S.It is too common these days for producers to try to upgrade the words of G&S operas, both for political correctness and to make them more topical. This production is no exception. Unfortunately, the new references often are so topical that they have no relevancy a few years later. For example, the wonderful line, "When Wellington thrashed Bonaparte, as any child can tell, the House of Peers, throughout the war, did nothing in particular, and did it very well!" is replaced by some drivel about the mostly forgotten Falkland war. At least the changes are documented in the DVD version.There are no captions or sub-titles available on this DVD, which is unfortunate. Nevertheless, this is a wonderful version of Iolanthe. The players are in good voice and they clearly understand that this is comic opera. This Canadian company ranks among the most refreshing modern interpreters of Gilbert and Sullivan."
Much Sullivan and less Gilbert
Richard L. Wexelblat | Merion Station, PA United States | 03/16/2003
(1 out of 5 stars)
"While I agree for the most part with the other review, I'll add that the G&S purist will be very disappointed by the arbitrary changes and additions to Sullivan's contribution and very, very disappointed by the pretty much irrelevant local references and such arbitrary re-wordings (e.g. to allow a needless change of "five and twenty" to "twenty five". If you really, really like G&S, give this recording a pass."
Stratford demonstrates zero respect for beautiful theater
Jonathan Ichikawa | United States | 01/17/2003
(1 out of 5 stars)
"In 1882, W.S. Gilbert and Arthur Sullivan introduced a beautiful opera at the Savoy theater. Iolanthe was at once human and funny, moving and satirical. Unfortunately, this Stratford production seems to have latched onto the phrase "comic opera" and decided that drama and acting are insignificant, and that each scene -- in some cases, each line -- should be considered in a vacuum to maximize comic effect. The result is a series of scenes that betray characters as massively inconsistent and unbelievable, and a show that is much less than the sum of its parts.I don't generally mind rewrites in cases where the original lyrics would be unintelligible; I think it's perfectly reasonable to write "Captain Shaw" or "Ovidius Naso" out of Iolanthe. But to a modern American audience, many of the dated political jokes are no better understood.All told, the musical changes, the lyric changes, and especially the (lack of nuanced) acting indicates a complete disrespect for the original product, and makes one wonder why Stratford is (at least nominally) doing G&S at all."
Life's a pudding full of plums / Here's a production that be
L. E. Cantrell | Vancouver, British Columbia Canada | 06/15/2006
(1 out of 5 stars)
"Every Stratford production of Gilbert and Sullivan appeared to be in a race to hit rock bottom with a thud. They all succeeded. "Oh, horror!" cries the British House of Peers in this comic opera and, for once, with good reason.
With the exception of the Maureen Forrester, it is clear that singing was not regarded as a requirement to appear on the stage at Stratford, Ontario. Fortunately for Forrester, her singing career was glorious enough to survive even this ugly blot. Barely.
Rather than skilled musical performers, the Ontario stage was infested with third-rate clowns who felt free to be "funny" whenever and, alas, however possible.
Evidently, Stratford's dramaturge, a person who might someday hope to aspire to the higher calling of hack, decided that W. S. Gilbert was incompetent and out of date, so Gilbert's words were improved by the addition of Canadian local references and allusions to long-since forgotten political shenanigans in Ottawa.
In the original broadcast, the director carefully explained how he had cut away a century of moldy tradition to return Gilbert and Sullivan to their music hall roots. If he had uttered such preposterous nonsense to Sullivan, who was a gentlemen, the formally trained and very serious composer would have smiled politely and promptly absented himself from such an obvious fool. If the director had made that monstrous suggestion to Gilbert, who was not, the fiery and short-tempered dramatist would first have punched the bounder's lights out and then hauled him into court for slander.