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Gilbert and Sullivan operas were well known for the satrical wit and were excellent at mocking contemporary society of the time. The music written by Sullivan often parodies and pastiches other styles of music such as Handel, Schubert and Italian opera composers like Verdi and Rossini. As well as pastiches Sullivan payed homage to many composers through the use of woodwind like Mendelssohn and leitmotivs like Wagner. A.S.Sullivan was born in Chelsea, London. His father was a military bandmaster and a music teacher of woodwind instruments. By the time Sullivan was eight he could already play all the instruments in the band. By the time he was fifthteen he had a scholar ship for the Royal Academy of Music in London which was extended for three years because of his hard work. In his prime he was thought to be greater than Brahms. W.S.Gilbert was an English born writer who wrote dramas, librettis and poems. He is best known for his libretti for fourteen operas written by Sullivan. As well as the operas he wrote many “Bab Ballads” for a variety of comic magazines. “Trial by Jury” was originally a “Bab ballad” . The pair made their first opera “Thespis” in 1871. The score sadly is not available to buy as it was lost. D'Oyly Carte was the duo's agent and owner of the Savoy theater; the host theater for the Gilbert and Sullivan operas. Normally Gilbert and Sullivan operas were characterized by their 'topsyturvey' story plots involved. Most of the time you will find that the heroine of the story is a soprano who is sympathetic but often selfish and scheming. With the heroine there will be a clumbsey light baritone who wishes to marry the heroine (e.g the Learned Judge in Trial By Jury) . In almost every opera there will a 'patter song' sung by the light baritone. A patter song is a song which is to be sung as fast as possible with every syllable being a note. The best example of the patter song is the Major-General's song in Pirates of Penzance, “I am the very model of a modern Major-General”. Another reoccuring character is a pompous bass and also a contralto who is normally a hopeless romantic. Sullivan wrote in many styles of music from different eras. It was this great skill that allowed him to musically parody the seriousness that can be found in not just operas but any song or piece at the time desired. The Mikado has a Renaissance like madrigal in the Act II song “Brightly dawns our wedding day”. Madrigals were written to have a cheery nature to them that sung about italien poetry. However in the Mikado they are singing this song to cheer up Yum-Yum for her wedding. The story continues after the song as Ko-Ko and Pooh-Bah enter and announce that if her husband is to flirt with another man he is to be beheaded and also his wife must be buried alive. A
This was before labour was formed with the workers unions although in present day the song is relevent and hugely ironic considering the recent general election which ended in a Conservative – Liberal coalition. The Baroque era in particular was popular to write about for Sullivan. as expected. The song depicts three of King Gama's sons preparing for battle. “Poor wandering one” from “Pirates of Penzance” by Gilbert and Sullivan. Bellini and Donizetti (Aigner. The MP's are like robots programmed to say yes to every legislation passed through the houses of parliament.plot like this would never have been present in a madrigal. Liberal and Conservative. They all start complaining saying its too heavy and uncomfortable for combat so start to have them taken off. “Sempre Libera” from “LaTraviata” by Verdi. All these aspects . It is a very prestigious and pompous sounding song containing many ornaments and flowing melisma very similar to some of Handel's arias from the likes of the Messiah. The song sticks to the classic style of madrigals in terms of harmony and even contains a “Fa-lala” refrains. Some of Sullivan's compositions didn't only parody and spoof other composers but they paid homage to a lot of composers and eras. Mable's aria from Pirates of Penzance “Poor wandering one” can be compared to “Sempre Libera” from Verdi's “La Traviata” (Aigner. An excellent example of this is the song from Princess Ida “This helmet I suppose”. Many of Handel's works were used in Sullivan's operas. . play part in the pastiche of Handel and absurdity of the 3 brothers unequipping their armour because of comfort and weight issues. Besides the classic style of baroque and renaissance composition methods Sullivan also wrote in more popular styles of the likes of Offenbach in spoofing classic sterotypical Italien operas from composers such as Verdi. This implies there was and is no thought process through passing the laws of the country. 2002). Private Willis's song “When all night long” from Iolanthe is another take on Handel. Theres a very good line is this song that mocks all MP's that goes “They've got to leave that brain outside and vote just as their leaders tell 'em to”. 2002) particularly for the amount of coloratura and ascending mellisma used in the middle sections of each song. There is a grand opening that leads into the bass's song where he goes on to talk about the state of politics of the time and how there are only ever two sides to politics. This of course results in King Hildebrand's sons defeating the Gama brothers.
The words they are singing are “A nice dilema we have we” but this sentence is broken up into triplets to sing “A-nice di-lem ma -we havehere. A vamp like this would have been played by strings in a grand Italian opera. The song then developes with the counsel singing about how he/she is doubting if the absurd court case will come to a conclusion. The dilema is made worse as Angelini reminds us that if Edwin was to marry two women it would be an act of burglary. The defendent then protests that if he does end up marrying Angelini a divorve with most likely take place shortly afterward.. Edwin and Angelina are both given melodies that are particularly high. The music then enters into a sextet including all the solo voice. The complete non-sense of this this opera somewhat makes the music seem anticlimatic. the Edwin suggests that he should just marry two women to reach a quick agreement and the judge agrees naively.Other examples of italen opera are “A nice dilema” from “Trial by jury”. The song is definitely the most complex in the operetta. There is a vamp middle section which is sang by the chorus. At this point in the story. . The learned judge begins with his realisation that you cannot marry two women at the one time.. The counsels melody line is decorated with flowing melisma as if they are sighing to the case. The counsel then explains to the judge that this act would be 'burglary'. To have a song like this in an operetta of such short length (approximately 30 minutes) is ridiculous. Pieces like this that are featured in grand Verdi operas are often about “a matter of life and death” situation and not something as petty like a poor man (Edwin) changing his mind about marry a selfish gold digger (Angelina) and they have to decide what to do. It has a very italian sound to it but the way the words are set out makes it comical.” which isnt good word setting at all which makes it suitable to mocking this classic style. At one point there are 5 different sets of words being sung at the one time.
The combination of the solo voice singer over the top of other males singing quietly creates a funny scene in Pirates. They always chant “tarantara” which sounds similar to blaring trumpets. Although not an opera “The Tempest” by Sullivan featured significant woodwind parts which were very similar to the music of “A Midsummer night's dream” by Mendelssohn(De Ternant.There was also alot of romantic influences in Sullivans music. “With Catlike Tread” from “Pirates of Penzance” by Gilbert and Sullivan. The idea of using onomatopoeia to the effect to give the policemen a galloping sound is brilliant. 1966).1924). The Major-General's song from Pirates of Penzance is a take on some of Schubert's partsongs for male voices. “With cat like threads” from pirates is an immitation of Verdi's “Anvil chorus” from Il Trovatore (Baily. Here is the theme from both operas. The police feature in “With catlike treads” also have a role in mocking the whole grand opera style. As Sullivan was a woodwind player he took greatly from the music of Mendelssohn as he was an excellent writer for woodwind. In the scene the pirates are hiding from the Major-General who cannot sleep so he goes for a walk and listens who the “sighing of the breeze” which is in fact the pirates creeping around. Policemen are meant to be keepers of law and order and normally act sensible but in this they could probably pass as being a character in a Monty Python sketch. It is clearly being mocked in Pirates. In his later years his he developed a sound like Schubert and Mendelssohn. “Anvil Chorus” from “Il Trovatore” by Verdi. This is also another reoccurring plot in Gilbert and Sullivan operas where there is a . especially specifically the song “Standchen”. as opposed to the serious theme of the part song about the meaning of friendship.
Many of his operas had themes set to a particular group of characters or indiviual people. Here is a musical example from the song “ In every mental lore”. The First Life Guards singing immediately after Zara finishes at a faster tempo. Princess Zara singing in “Oh. Another example from the same opera are the songs that Scaphio and Phantis sing.S Pinafore there is a similar humour involving a cat o' ninetails being whipped and giving the sailors a fright.character unaware he is being watched and just assumes the noise he heard is something else.M. When they wonder what it the sound is but they just ignore it and assume it was an actual cat. The first life guards are highly trained guards who automatically start singing in unison in military like manner “We are the escort First Life Guards!”. As one of the characters is singing the other one interrupts during their line. If we look at “Carefully on tiptoe stealing” from H. maiden rich” in Utopia Ltd. Many times they are present in the opera they sing “tarantara”. His extensive use of leitmotivs was similar to Wagners(Baily. There was one mentioned earlier of this essay in the section about the policemen in Pirates of Penzance. There songs are very light hearted and pleasant. This is also true with the first life guards in Utopia Ltd. They are always sung in duets aswell. There is one song where they are very prevalent called “Oh maiden rich” where he women of utopia are singing about Princess zara in a dreamy airy song then the first life guards burst into the mechanical military singing.1966). . Sullivan also paid homage towards Wagner. Puns were very popular in Gilbert's writing and the Victorian society enjoyed the wittiness of them.
“In every mental lore” from Utopia Ltd. Both Gilbert and Sullivan were educated enough to know that society had many flaws and they were both excellent at exploiting it.operatoday. Leslie (1966). Third Edition.com www. Although there are many more styles and different parodies in the music I feel I have picked the most relevant examples to that are parallel with today's society and the way people act to each other. Spring Books. The Gilbert and Sullivan Book. Gilbert and Sullivan – A Dual Biography. Andrew. 1924. pp. References : Ainger.com . December 1. Michael (2002). Oxford: Oxford University Press Baily. De Ternant. 1089-90 London: Bibliography: The Oxford Companion to Music www. This is the reason they are so popular additionally to the cheerful are simple sounding music. "Debussy and Others on Sullivan" in The Musical Times.search.
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