savoy opera


Sigh. Just when I thought I was getting over my homesickness for Okinawa, I go and watch Topsy-Turvy. It was an utterly lovely period piece. I had only intended to watch it because it’s set in the 1880s, so imagine my surprise when I realized it was about the making of The Mikado! The actors, especially those playing actors in the opera, were stunning. But, then again, when isn’t Jim Broadbent and Timothy Spall not amazing? Oh, and the costumes! Perfectly appropriate bustles and quite the attention to detail for the yukatas. I was pleasantly surprised throughout the entire film! I’m going to have to build the Savoy Theatre for my downtown and people it with a brooding Gilbert and spritely Sullivan now. Just what I needed to add some entertainment to my ‘hood!

This week’s Cast Recording of the Week is my first Gilbert and Sullivan operetta to be included in this blog. 

Trial by Jury is a comic opera in one act, with music by Arthur Sullivan and libretto by W. S. Gilbert. It was first produced on 25 March 1875, at London’s Royalty Theater, where it initially ran for 131 performances and was considered a hit, receiving critical praise and outrunning its popular companion piece. The story concerns a “breach of promise of marriage” lawsuit in which the judge and legal system are the objects of lighthearted satire. Gilbert based the libretto of Trial by Jury on an operetta parody that he had written in 1868.

As with most Gilbert and Sullivan operas, the plot of Trial by Jury is ludicrous, but the characters behave as if the events were perfectly reasonable. This narrative technique blunts some of the pointed barbs aimed at hypocrisy, especially of those in authority, and the sometimes base motives of supposedly respectable people and institutions. These themes became favourites of Gilbert through the rest of his collaborations with Sullivan. Critics and audiences praised how well Sullivan’s witty and good-humoured music complemented Gilbert’s satire. The success of Trial by Jury launched the famous series of 13 collaborative works between Gilbert and Sullivan that came to be known as the Savoy Operas.