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By Charles Hayter (auth.)

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Sample text

The topic for at least one of the operas, The Gondoliers, was suggested by Sullivan, and throughout the preparation of each libretto the composer played an important role in modifying Gilbert's ideas. In 1894 Gilbert gave an interview in which he described their creative method: 'Oh', said Mr. Gilbert, 'I suppose we do it pretty much as any other two persons would who collaborate. In the first place, we arrange a meeting and I propose a subject, which, if entertained at all, is freely and fully discussed in all its bearings.

Under the guise of moral edification, the middle classes slowly moved back to the theatre. Their attendance was helped by the efforts of managements like the Reeds who made an effort to cater to the respectability of their customers. Their advertisements avoided all sense of impropriety. In much the same way that Victorian tableclothes hid the legs of the tea-table, the Reeds clothed their undertakings in non-theatrical terms: plays were called 'illustrations' and roles 'assumptions'. Although the light pieces that they played bubbled with the Victorian nonsense spirit, they were completely free of any coarseness or vulgarity.

Whereas Orpheus belittles its gods 31 Gilbert and Sullivan and goddesses by making them into characters from the Boulevards, Thespis achieves the same effect by reducing the deities to Victorian ladies and gentlemen: Enter DIANA, an elderly Goddess. She is carefully wrapped up in Cloaks, Shawls, etc. A hood is over her head, a respirator in her mouth, and galoshes on her feet. During the chorus she takes these things off, and discovers herself dressed in the usual costume of the Lunar Diana, the Goddess of the Moon.

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