One of the more obscure Gilbert and Sullivan operettas, Princess Ida is a satire of higher education for women. Modern audiences may find this premise hard to stomach, but the mockery is more silly than harsh. If you can g... more »et over the predictable absurdities (hint: the man-hating heroine ends up marrying the tenor), it's lighthearted fun, with emphasis on the "light." The action is set in a more or less Arthurian kingdom, where Prince Hilarion and Princess Ida have been betrothed since infancy. Now they are to marry, but the bride-to-be has established a university for women and disdains men. The score is delicious. From an evolution lesson that depicts a man as "only a monkey shaved" to a drunken song performed by one of Hilarion's friends in maidenly drag, it's a terrific surprise for those who know only G&S's more standard works. This version is part of the Opera World series, which produced 12 G&S operettas for British television in the 1980s. The series is of uneven quality. Here the costumes are tacky and not all the actors are equal to Gilbert's mock-solemn script, written in iambic pentameter. But as the obnoxious King Gama ("I can tell a woman's age in half a minute--and I do"), Frank Gorshin gives a full-tilt vaudeville performance. And Anne Collins, a mainstay of this series as a procession of unloved older women, is delectable as Lady Blanche, with her precise contralto and her willingness to be the Margaret Dumont of Gilbert and Sullivan. --David Olivenbaum« less
""Princess Ida" is certainly one of the least known of the Savoy Operas. The problem is that you have some of Sullivan's most delicious music wedded with one of Gilbert's weakest and most dated libretti. To be honest, I was not looking forward to watching this production. In the main, the Brent Walker series can be pretty painful for the dedicated Savoyard; and I figured the "Ida" would be a total disaster.
Imagine my surprise! A wonderful cast makes this entry one of the most charming in the series and is certainly as good an "Ida" as we're ever likely to get on video. Ida's opening solo, "Minerva! Oh hear me!" is one of those pieces I usually sleep through, but Nan Christie in the title role makes the music come alive. The rest of the performers are uniformly wonderful both in voice and delivery. Even American import Frank Gorshin refrains from hamming it up as King Gama and delivers a performance worthy of Martyn Green.
All in all this DVD is a real treasure - a little known work beautifully preserved for repeated viewings!"
The wonderful opera has been unjustly neglected
Waxwing Slayne | 09/02/2000
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This is a merry, intimate production of one of Gilbert and Sullivan's most melodious operas. This tape is especially valuable, because the show is one that local Gilbert and Sullivan groups rarely peform (although the Ohio Light Opera has revived it twice with great artistic success in the past decade). The show has some problems, of course. The three-act format is awkward. Gilbert's libretto showers hearty, Victorian male ridicule on the notion of female education. But musically, this baby is as red hot as anything the boys ever did. Once heard, these glorious melodies will enrich your life forever. As others have observed, this series of tapes hits and misses. But I believe that "Princess Ida" is one of their real winners."
If you give me your attention . . .
Waxwing Slayne | 01/02/2004
(4 out of 5 stars)
". . . I will tell you what I think of this DVD.This is a great production!It's staged in a very entertaining format, set up as an amateur production at a charming English estate. It opens with the guests arriving at the house, the gentlemen drinking in the study, and the ladies arranging their hair and makeup. Lovely! Quite a nice way to open the performance and very effective for getting the audience into that G&S mode, while pushing the events at Castle Adamant further away from our fax and text-messaging present. On the whole it makes the place and time setting easy to absorb and the lively lyrics far more believable.The performances are brilliant! Some particular highlights include the actor that plays King Gamma (particularly enjoyable as the vile and sneering father of the title character). His performances in 'If you give me your attention' and 'Whene'er I spoke' are laugh-out-loud funny. The actors protraying Prince Hilarion and Princess Ida also have some nice moments ranging from tenderness and longing to bitterness and defeat. (I apologise to the performers for not being able to credit their names at this time).I do find it peculiar that there is a wide range of ages of men in the cast, including many young men in the chorus of soldiers. On the other hand, nearly all of the 'young maids' studying at Castle Adamant look to be over forty, with the exception of Melissa. Perhaps it is the video quality or the volume of makeup they are wearing for the film. Curious, all the same.The staging and choreography are quite ambitious, but well-organized. The production is beautifully cast, and every performer is not only an accomplished singer, but also a genuine actor and well-trained dancer. As a triple-threat performer, I can't express how surprised I am to see so many talented tenors and basses that also possess professional dance training.The dance sequences are smooth, uncontrived, and inspiring; not only are they entertaining to watch, but they fit in very smoothly with the music and humour of the play. Especially the courtly dances during "Now harken to my strict command" and the organized marching during "When anger spreads his wing". A true musical comedy. I challenge anyone who labels Gilbert & Sullivan as 'boring' and 'out of date' to watch this film. You can't tell me it isn't entertaining and brilliant. Trivial, perhaps, but certainly not boring.In terms of short-comings: perhaps it's the decade in which this production was filmed, but the HOST is terribly pretentious and awkward. He is very believably a character from a Saturday Night Live skit; that's disappointing, as I don't believe the creators of the film intended him to be so cheesy. I feel his between-act appearances are mocking not only the characters and events, but also the audience for watching it at all. Very disappointing.This DVD is also very difficult to navigate. There are not nearly enough scene selections for every song. One can do individual scene selections for some songs, but not all. For example, the opening scene with the overture is over six minutes long and there is a silent break between the overture and the beginning of the first number ('Search throughout the panorama...'), yet there is no separate scene issued for the first number. Peculiar. It's not a problem if you like to watch the entire film from beginning to end, but logically (and especially for a musical) the arrangement of this DVD doesn't make sense.Despite its shortcomings, this really is a great DVD and the actual production is a very complementary interpretation of Gilbert & Sullivan's art. Princess Ida is a lovely show; this really is a staple not only for the DVD library of every G&S fan, but also for that of every musical theatre fan. I am disappointed that Princess Ida as a light operas hasn't survived as memorably with the general public as the more popular Pirates of Penzance and Mikado. Perhaps it is unpopular as a result of the ending *which I will not spoil here*. It was likely easy to swallow during Gilbert and Sullivan's lifetime, but it's much less appealing to individuals raised with very modern sensibilities. But alas, I think the ending is ideal, since even our highest principles are certainly not 'above the sway of love.'I sincerely hope that Gilbert & Sullivan productions will continue to be performed for centuries to come, and that Princess Ida will stand in its own right. I hope that productions like this one will inspire more to be filmed for our home theatre enjoyment."
firstname.lastname@example.org | Melbourne, Australia | 04/28/2000
(5 out of 5 stars)
"As anyone who has seen "Topsy Turvy" will recall, "Princess Ida" did not exactly set the world on fire when it was first offered to the public in 1884. The stigma of being amongst the least successful Gilbert and Sullivan efforts has been hard to shake. More productions like this would certainly help. This is a fine production, for the most part well cast and extremely well sung, especially by Nan Christie in the title role. It avoids the fault, very common in this opera, of swamping the work in opulence. "Princess Ida", despite its length, is an intimate work, and this has not been lost on the producers.The text has been pruned for television it is true, and those sensitive to cuts will possibly be alarmed, though to my ears the damage is negligible."
email@example.com | 02/27/2002
(2 out of 5 stars)
"I agree with all the other reviewers said about the performance, but the play-within-a-play format cooked up for this particular production is a jarring note and distracts from the otherwise high quality production.This is one of the most melodic of G&S operettas and I wish it were performed more often. "Whom Thou Hast Chained" is an absolute delight."