I certainly haven’t been a little maid from school for the past 20 years, but I’m still an enthusiastic student of Gilbert and Sullivan. Who wouldn’t hold a lifelong fascination for a duo who are, in my mind at least, the greatest musical double act of our age? Gilbert’s fanciful topsy turvy words and worlds, backed by Sullivan’s mesmerisingly memorable melodies, are the ultimate in comic opera; the characters a delightful hodge podge of hilarious hoi polloi and amusing aristocrats. From the very model of the modern Major General to Ko-Ko the Lord High Executioner, Gilbert and Sullivan’s characterful creations have been bringing light and laughter to audiences for more than a century, and are loved the world over. Which is precisely why the Paphos Voices’ spring concert is bound to be a hit…
Taking place at the Stage One Theatre in central Paphos on June 4, The Magic of Gilbert and Sullivan will encompass all that is best from the talented duo. The bright and breezy programme is set to include choral excerpts from eight of the thirteen operettas ensuring, says Paphos Voices’ Press Officer Anita Dye, “a very entertaining evening. I think a lot of our audience will know and have seen Gilbert and Sullivan operettas before, so they know the mood, and just what to expect, and will probably have their own particular favourite songs… Which we hope we have included in our programme!”
With a total of 18 choristers (four tenors, two basses, five altos and “a surfeit of sopranos,” says Anita, who includes herself amongst this number) led by conductor Keith Smith and accompanied by the talented pianist Nadia Iotova, the evening’s line-up takes in all the old tap-your-toes and sing-along favourites, chosen specifically for their audience appeal.
Trial by Jury opens the evening, with the chorus of jurors singing of the Breach of Promise trial about to start, and the Judge relating the tale of how he was called to the bar. Ruddigore follows, with its melodramatic conglomeration of professional bridesmaids, noblemen with pastoral yearnings and their ghostly ancestors. Then it’s into the enchanted world of Iolanthe, where the Queen of the Fairies and her brood take revenge on the snooty Peers and install an Arcadian shepherd to cause disruption and dismay in Parliament. HMS Pinafore ends the first half of the concert, with the redoubtable first Sea Lord Sir Joseph Porter, the ship’s Captain, his daughter Josephine and Able-Seaman Ralph Rackstraw declaring that love can overcome the inequalities of birth.
The much-loved Pirates of Penzance kicks off the second half of the programme, with the band of pirates trying to outwit the bumbling policemen (cue the eminently catchy ‘When a felon’s not engaged in his employment’). The Mikado follows, featuring Ko-ko the Lord High Executioner, the Three Little Maids and countless other memorable characters in an Oriental extravaganza which culminates in the charming madrigal ‘Brightly dawns our wedding day!’ A chirpy number from Patience is next, before the entire programme concludes with a final selection from The Gondoliers that includes the Italianate love-song Take a Pair of Sparkling Eyes.
“We’re hoping to wow the audience with these eight numbers,” says Anita, adding that all were specifically chosen for audience appeal – and with particular help from one of the bass soloists who “eats, drinks and sleeps G&S! We wanted songs that could be sung by the entire choir: nice choral pieces or songs that could be adapted into choral excerpts, rather than relying on too many solos; it has a better impact on the audience, I believe, to see all 18 choir members up on stage. We’re really hoping that people will come out of the theatre smiling and humming away to themselves,” she continues, adding that Gilbert and Sullivan lends itself to this “happy-go-lucky atmosphere. It’s the fun of the thing: G&S take the mickey out of life – the lampooning of dignitaries, the gentle ridiculing of standards and convention – in a manner which is just as relevant and amusing today as when the operettas were first performed. These are songs and lyrics which really do transpose rather well into modern idiom, and are well-loved by people of all ages and all backgrounds.”
So, be you little maid, fairy queen or rapturous maiden, wand’ring minstrel, learned judge or professor of abstract science, make sure you add the Paphos Voices’ enchanting take on all that is best about G&S to your list of things you absolutely must do this weekend!
The Magic of Gilbert and Sullivan
The Paphos Voices will perform at Stage one Theatre Group in Paphos on June 4. Curtain up at 7.30pm. Tickets cost €8 and can be reserved by calling Anita on 99 771548 or Penny on 99 553429