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GLOC news

  • The Yeomen of the Guard – information pack

    GLOC are excited to begin work on their next production, The Yeomen of the Guard. Our welcome meeting is on at 6:45pm on Wednesday 31st January at St Gabriel’s Halls, Churchill Gardens, London SW1V 3AA (N.B. This is not St Gabriel’s Church itself but rather the halls on Churchill Gardens).

    We’d love for you to join us, whether you’ve been in a GLOC show before or have never even heard of The Yeomen of the Guard! Everyone is welcome, and we will give a full introduction to the company, the show, and our production team at the welcome meeting.

    If you can’t make the welcome meeting, or you missed it, then don’t worry – you are welcome to join us at a regular Wednesday evening rehearsal for the first few weeks into the show. Please email us at [email protected] if you’d like to come along!

    Below are all the details you need to know about the show, important dates and the company. We do not audition to be in the chorus but auditions for principal parts will be held on the 7th and 10th February. See below for details on how to book, or go straight to the form here:

    Opportunities to get involved: audition for a principal role, join the chorus (no audition required), and/or volunteer to help backstage or on the production team (props, costume, lighting, stage managing etc).

    Important dates

    Open meetingWednesday 31 January 2024St Gabriel’s Halls, Churchill Gardens Rd, Pimlico, SW1V 3AA
    Auditions for principal rolesWednesday 7 February 18:45 – 21:45 Saturday 10 February 2024 10:00 – 14:00+St Gabriel’s Halls, Churchill Gardens Rd, Pimlico, SW1V 3AA.
    Auditions by appointment
    Fill in the Google Form here: 
    RehearsalsEvery Wednesday, 6.45 – 9.45pm, beginning 14 February 2024.St Gabriel’s Halls, Churchill Gardens Rd, Pimlico, SW1V 3AA Not everyone will be called for every rehearsal 
    Sunday rehearsals1-2 as we get closer to show week. Dates and location TBC
    Show get-inSunday 16 June 2024 from 10amDetails to be confirmed but everyone should be prepared to attend. Bridewell Theatre.
    Tech rehearsal (compulsory)Monday 17 June 2024 (18:00)Bridewell Theatre 14 Bride Lane, Fleet Street, EC4Y 8EQ
    Dress rehearsal(compulsory)Tuesday 18 June 2024  (18:00)From circa 6pm at Bridewell Theatre 14 Bride Lane, Fleet Street, EC4Y 8EQ
    Performances (compulsory)Wednesday 19 June – Friday 21 June (evenings)Saturday 22 June (matinee)Saturday 22 June (evening)Bridewell Theatre 14 Bride Lane, Fleet Street, EC4Y 8EQ
    Buxton Performance Monday 29th July 2024Evening performance on the main stage at The International Gilbert and Sullivan Festival, Buxton.  See below for more details. Compulsory for principals. Optional for chorus.

    Membership and costs

    You are very welcome to join rehearsals for a couple of weeks to decide whether or not you would like to stay and participate in the show; however to be in the show you will need to become a member of GLOC.

    This entails being able to attend all our performances, as well as the dress and tech rehearsals. (See dates above.)

    Our shows are put on to a very high standard, but with this there is a cost which isn’t covered by ticket sales and is made up by donations and membership fees.

    Membership fees for this show: £180. Half rates available for those who are unemployed or in full time education. If you think you would struggle to pay, please reach out to our treasurer James 

    At least the first half of the fees (£90) must be paid by 30 March (or, for principals, before confirmation of casting). The full amount is due by 27 April to ensure that we have funds to put on the show.

    Membership fees can be paid by bank transfer:

    Account name: Grosvenor Light Opera Company
    Account number: 80463221
    Sort code: 20-52-74

    Vocal Scores

    We wil be using the standard Chappell version of the score, which is available:

    For free as a PDF from IMSLP: Link

    As a physical copy from Amazon: Link

    Who’s who and contacts

    The production team and the GLOC committee include the following

    Show directorRachel Middle
    Musical directorChristopher Jacklin
    ChairMark Pim
    ProductionGemma Warren
    TreasurerJames Scowen
    SecretariesJacqueline Cable & Emma Rettie
    Contact them on [email protected] for queries about rehearsal schedules and auditions
    PublicityFran Lambert
    Contact her on [email protected] (or via FB, X or Instagram) for any public-facing enquiries (or just to share your GLOC photos!)
    Angels secretaryLissy Fothergill
    Ordinary membersJonathan Broad
    Social events & fundraisingJacqueline Cable, Emma Rettie, Fran Lambert

    About Rachel Middle and The Yeomen of the Guard

    An introduction from our director Rachel Middle.

    For those who don’t know me – hi! My name is Rachel Middle. I have been a professional Director and Actor for almost 15 years now, and much of my work has involved the comic operas of Gilbert and Sullivan; mostly with my own company ‘Forbear! Theatre’ but also with the National Gilbert and Sullivan Opera company in 2021. From the age of sixteen I have been absolutely enchanted by G&S; there something about the ‘matter-of-fact’ humour set in absurd, topsy-turvy locations and situations that hits all the right spots for me, and Sullivan’s setting of Gilbert’s lyrics only adds to the drama and the comedy. It has been my mission for quite some time now to show the world just how relevant these stories are; not so much for the specific situations the characters are in but for showing us how people can be flawed, but still good at heart; how the ostensibly strongest of us can prove themselves to be the most vulnerable of us all; and how their failure to communicate honestly and openly can end in heartbreak.  These operas are not as frivolous as they seem; while using satire to poke fun at the upper classes they give us a real insight into why people do the things they do, while providing the audience with a much-needed injection of sheer joy.

    At first glance, The Yeomen of the Guard is not quite like the other Gilbert and Sullivan operas; it was created largely to give Sullivan the space he needed to write a work he considered truly emotional and dramatic, more along the lines of ‘Grand Opera’ than the comic operas he was used to writing with Gilbert, and the piece is full of deep, emotional moments. ‘Yeomen’ is set in the Tower of London in the 1520s, and features Colonel Fairfax, a man who is about to be wrongfully executed for Sorcery. Fairfax accepts his fate but wishes to marry before he dies so his money doesn’t go to one of his enemies. The woman randomly chosen is Elsie, a strolling musician who is herself in a complicated situation with her performing colleague, Jack Point, who clearly loves her but has difficulty communicating this to her. Fairfax’s friends, meanwhile, have plotted his escape, and thus Fairfax finds himself alive and newly married to a woman he doesn’t know, and Elsie and Jack are forced to deal with the aftermath.

    Though the story seems pretty miserable on first glance, one of Gilbert’s great strengths was finding the humour in tragedy, and “Yeomen” is no exception; it is full of wittiness, silliness, and likeable, but complex characters, and is a lot less tragic than many believe! In our production we will highlight not only Gilbert’s wonderful words and Sullivan’s glorious music, (arguably the best in the canon,) but we will have a lot of fun creating unique characters; Principals and chorus-members alike; and experience being part of one of the most beautifully romantic pieces in the canon.

    The International G&S Festival in Buxton

    GLOC is delighted to be returning to the Festival in Buxton in the summer, and in particular to be returning to the main stage, at the Buxton Opera House, which is a reflection of the reputation for high quality shows we have built up at the festival.  This additional performance is compulsory for principal roles.  It is optional for the chorus, although we hope you enjoy your experience of performing with GLOC enough to want to do the show again.  

    Please note there is a small additional show fee for those going to Buxton to cover the costs of taking the show to the Festival.  The Committee endeavours to keep this as low as possible; for reference, in previous years the additional fee was up to around £50 and (when the main show did well and expenses for the festival were small) has even been £0.  Please also note that GLOC does not organise accommodation or travel and you are advised to book early.  You will need to be in Buxton at the latest the evening of Sunday 28th August. We are likely to be asked to perform the after-show evening cabaret at the festival club.


    We do not audition for chorus members. All are welcome — just come along!

    Auditions for principal parts will take place on:

    • Wednesday 7 February (6:50pm – 10pm at St Gabriel’s Halls Pimlico)
    • Saturday 10 February (10am – 2pm at St Gabriel’s Halls Pimlico)

    Auditions will last around ten minutes and consist of an English-language song of the candidate’s own choice and an extract of spoken libretto, followed by a brief chat. Descriptions of each character, together with the relevant extract of dialogue for audition and suggested audition pieces, are detailed below. 

    Sign up for a slot here:

    You are not required to have learnt the audition material by heart and are welcome to sing/read from the music/script. However, it is in your interests to ensure you are familiar enough with the material to be able to perform freely and respond to direction.

    Although audition songs for each role have been suggested below, you will be best served by performing something you know well. That said, if you have a particular role in mind, think carefully about the vocal and dramatic qualities you wish to portray.

    If you wish to be considered for more than one part please indicate this on the audition form; however you will only be able to do one audition slot.

    There is a £12 audition fee; there will be a card reader at the auditions to collect this fee. If you do join the production, this audition fee is then deducted from your membership fee (so for those who continue in a chorus or principal role, there is no additional cost for auditioning).

    Please arrive in advance of your audition time, as you will be asked to fill in an availability form prior to your audition. Availability will be taken into account in decisions to allocate roles. If your availability decreases during the rehearsal period, or your actual attendance is less than expected, we may decide to reallocate the role for the benefit of the other cast members and chorus.

    Please note that, this year, confirmation and announcement of principal roles will be subject to payment of the first instalment of subs.

    Characters and audition sides

    Please note that the audition songs included below are for guidance only, picked primarily to show the range of the roles, or to tackle the ‘tricky’ bits. However, these are not compulsory and candidates should feel free to choose any appropriate piece with lyrics in English that shows them off to the best of their ability.

    Please prepare the specified speeches for your character, however you may be asked to read only ONE of them, or a portion.  You are NOT expected to be off-book. The relevant extracts of dialogue are available from the full libretto here:

    The vocal score is available from here

    Elsie Maynard – Soprano (D4 – Bb6)

    An enigmatic, strolling player who finds herself married to a man she has never seen.  Don’t fall into the trap of believing Elsie is some solemn, tragic character.  People who have gone through a huge shock as Elsie has during the events of Act I would be anxious, heart-broken (presuming she has some feelings for Jack Point, which I think she does.  Controversially, it’s possible to have feelings for two people at once!) and extremely vulnerable.  Elsie is a performer.  She is confident, extroverted and charming, usually wearing a smile.  She and Jack are in the same industry- she also has to put a brave face on things!

    Audition song:  Act 1, No 10 – Recit and Aria: ‘Tis done! I am a bride! 

    Dialogue: Scene with Fairfax following No. 17 (Strange Adventure)

    Phoebe Meryll – Mezzo-soprano (or Soprano*) (G#3 – F5)

    As the daughter of the leader of the Yeomen but an outspoken critic of the workings of the tower, Phoebe is possibly the most intelligent but least mature character in the canon.  Her imagination runs absolutely wild with thoughts of grand romance with the hero Fairfax.  However, though she dreams of a courageous soldier taking her into his arms all she has is her nerdy childhood friend Wilfred.  She is actually extremely fond of Wilfred, but is unable to allow herself to fall in love with him because it would dramatically lower her social standing.  Phoebe is only one of several ‘it girls’ in the Tower and she would never live it down if she married Wilfred.  Though Phoebe seems shallow and frivolous she is a deeply considerate, brave, clever person who does not hesitate at the chance to save Fairfax.

    Audition song:  Act I, No. 1 – Song: When a maiden loves

    Dialogue: Scene following no. 20 up until “but even brutes must marry I suppose”

    *This role is written for a mezzo, but can be performed by a soprano if you transpose her two songs.

    Kate – Soprano (F#4 – G5)

    Kate is a relatively small part of this story but she nonetheless makes her mark in the scene preceding Strange Adventure and the song itself.  She is charming, empathetic, and LOVES gossip.  She is always with her aunt, Dame Carruthers, and will play a silent role in many scenes she has no dialogue or singing in, but that doesn’t mean she doesn’t have opinions!  Since she has relatively little spoken dialogue, I’ve included Elsie’s scene as an audition piece.

    Audition song: Act 2, No. 5 – Quartet: Strange Adventure (either verse).

    Dialogue: Elsie’s Scene with Fairfax following Strange Adventure

    Dame Carruthers – Contralto (G3 – Eb5)

    The ostensibly quite matronly but actually very repressed and romantic administrative backbone of the Tower of London.  She is in charge of everything, and everyone is quite scared of her, but she has a softer side.  Remember all those really crappy magazines we used to read 20 years ago? The ones full of true life stories like “I married a ferris wheel”? Dame Carruthers is properly in love with the Tower of London itself, and I want anyone singing her aria in an audition to have a true, earnest, romantic connection with the Tower.  It’s a good thing she’s never left alone on stage with it.  She also LOVES gossip, and revels in the idea that there is some conspiracy going on in the tower, and tends to pop up unnoticed.  I get the sense that she glides rather than walks, and possibly appears at random times in random places, making people jump.  Elegance.  POWER.  But also kind of silly around Meryll.  Like when a swan falls over.

    Audition song: Act 1, No. 3 – Song: When our gallant Norman foes (either verse).

    Dialogue: Scene Following no. 2

    Colonel Fairfax – Tenor (Eb3 – Ab4) 

    The handsome war hero who is wrongfully accused of sorcery, and who has bravely accepted his fate to be executed at the Tower.  He gets wrapped up in a complicated situation with Elsie who he attempts to ‘trick’ into being unfaithful to him.  I get it- Fairfax seems like a really bad guy.  However, in the interests of creating nuanced, three-dimensional characters, lets try to imagine that Fairfax, a military hero who’s heretofore been brave in the face of death, is not so good at talking to the ladies- it’s possible that in his attempts to impress Elsie he accidentally offends her, or perhaps he simply has a terrible sense of humour.  He’s also been through quite a trauma; I feel like at the end of the Act 1 finale he and Elsie have this shared moment of utter distress- she’s just realised she’s married to a criminal who’s still alive, and he’s in the midst of a crowd of knife-wielding maniacs who’ve just heard there’s a reward on his head, and any of them could recognise him at any moment! Yes, Fairfax isn’t afraid of dying exactly, but wouldn’t anyone be afraid of dying in that manner? Consider how that shared experience may have bonded them.  In short, he’s a war hero, but also awkward AF.

    Audition song:  Act 1, No. 5 – Song: Is life a boon?

    Dialogue: Scene following no. 4 AND Scene with Elsie following no. 17 

    Jack Point – Comic Baritone (A3 – F4)

    A strolling player who is an expert at finding comedy in tragedy, much like Gilbert himself! His abilities are put to the test, however, when he loses the love of his life through his own choices.  The danger with this role is that the actor plays ‘tragic’ from the beginning.  Even in the 2nd half, Jack never loses hope.  Consider that many people you see every day will be going through terrible heartbreaks and other personal difficulties.  Think how they may try and mask this from those they are trying to impress.  Don’t show me defeated- show me hope, anxiety, restlessness; perhaps a little mania.  Think how desperately he’ll be trying to shut out the voices in his head and convince himself and others that he’s FINE.  HE’S FINE, HONESTLY!!!!

    Audition songs:  Act2, No. 2 – Song: Oh a private buffoon – first and last verses only

    and Act 2 No. 10  – Finale: “Oh thoughtless crew! / It is sung to the moon”

    Dialogue: Scene following no. 13 up until “‘til I ache for it.”

    Sergeant Meryll- Bass-baritone (G2 – Eb4) 

    Meryll is a genuine, certified war hero.  He’s also the bestest, sweetest father imaginable.  He loves his children more than anything, fond even of Phoebe’s ability to ‘wheedle’ men.  Fairfax is like a (presumably much younger) brother to him; remember bonds formed in the army will hit differently; they’ve been through multiple shared traumas together.  There is real love and affection between them, and the thought of Fairfax dying is utterly devastating to him.  Meryll’s character is almost subordinate to his ability to deliver exposition.  This role requires an actor who can deliver dialogue EXTREMELY well.  He has a lot of it, and it is dense.  I am looking for somebody very confident with delivering text clearly for this role.  Please note that ‘A Laughing Boy’ is almost certainly cut from this production.

    Audition song: Act 1, No. 2 – Double Chorus, bars 61-103 (Figure C): 2nd Yeoman solo “This, the autumn of our lives” 

    Dialogue: Scene following 3a until “And bless thee for this sacrifice”

    Wilfred – Baritone (G2 – E4)

    Wilfred holds the esteemed post of ‘assistant torturer’ at the Tower of London, but he is possibly the most insipid and most infuriating person you’ll ever meet.  Eloquent and openly vulnerable, he’s not at all shy about his love for Phoebe, but sadly he is lacking in most skills that would aid him in winning her love.  Think sad puppy; a hopeless romantic, but immature and petulant when he doesn’t get his way.  He is VERY jealous of Fairfax and is very open about wanting him out of the way.   Sadly, the only thing he is good at is torturing people, but he’s really, really proud of how good he is at it- think of a cat that’s brought a dead mouse onto your recently-cleaned kitchen floor- look, mum, dinner!!!! Ultimately, though, he and Phoebe probably will be very happy together once they’ve grown up a bit. Please note that we will most likely be including no. 1a; “When Jealous torments rack my soul”

    Audition song:  Act !, No. 12 – Finale, bars 201-259 (8 bars after J): “To thy fond care” 

    Dialogue: Scene following no. 20 from “In tears, eh?” up until “My beloved!”

    Sir Richard Cholmondeley (Lieutenant) – Baritone (A3 – E4)

    The commander of the whole Tower and a very respected authority figure.  He’s actually a real guy- you can look him up! As soon as he appears the crowd goes silent and complies- it is not your job as an actor to command respect- the chorus and the other principals will do that for you, but being able to project power while being still is essential here.  What we are looking for here is someone who is very grounded and comfortable with projection, and who can convey a relatively austere front while actually having a good sense of humour.  He is absurdly dry; a fun but challenging role to play.  

    Audition song:  Act 1, No. 9 – Trio: How say you, maiden – first verse 

    Dialogue: Scene following no. 9 (after Jack’s speech)

    Leonard Meryll – Tenor – (Gb3 – Ab4) 

    Meryll’s son and Phoebe’s brother- exceptionally brave and heroic and willing to put his own life on the line to save Fairfax.  Ideally this performer will become a part of the chorus while they are not ‘Leonard’ so this would be a really fun track to do!

    Audition song and Dialogue:  Same as Colonel Fairfax

    First Yeoman – Tenor, Second Yeoman – baritone, First Citizen, Second Citizen

    For these roles it is best to select from the material for a character above.  Please note that the second Yeoman’s solo in ‘Tower Warders’ is often given to Meryll, however we are not ruling out that the solo may be given to Second Yeoman after all.  The First and Second citizens will be selected once Elsie has been cast as, since the main purpose of their roles is to assault or attempt to assault Elsie, I want the person playing her to have an input.

    About Grosvenor Light Opera Company

    GLOC is a leading London G&S Society, and one of the only amateur operatic societies to both rehearse and perform in Central London. As a result, we attract a membership largely of young professionals who work in the city, together with students attending the city’s universities 

    We perform at least one fully-staged G&S production, accompanied by a professional orchestra, every year and supplement this with other staged and semi-staged concert performances. We are a very sociable society, and organise events and parties for our members, and invariably find time for a catch-up with each other in the pub after rehearsals. We pride ourselves on being friendly and welcoming to new members.
    Connect with us on Facebook, X and Instagram

  • Audition workshop & piano bar social – 20th Jan

    Book your tickets to our upcoming Audition Workshop on Saturday January 20th here

    Join GLOC’s audition workshop and piano bar sing-a-long, which includes a sumptuous hot and cold  buffet dinner in The Spying room of The Morpeth Arms in Pimlico.

    Learn industry tips and tricks for your audition, lead by our esteemed Musical Director, Chris Jacklin! The workshop includes how to choose the right songs, performing techniques, as well as how to approach the auditioning panel. You’ll get the chance to watch live auditions and ask the real-time questions that you’ve always wanted to ask!

    After the workshop, we’ll take a break with a hot and cold buffet dinner, and have time to refill your glasses. We’ll then have a classic piano-bar sing-a-long, where you’ll get to practice your solos, or enjoy a general sing-song of your favourite musical theatre numbers, G&S classics or popular songs. Don’t forget to put your song requests in the sign-up sheet to be added to the line-up!

    Saturday 20th January 2024

    • Audition workshop: 15:30 – 22:00 includes buffet and piano bar (£41)
    • Piano bar social and buffet dinner only: 18:45 – 22:00 (£25)

    Limited places available sign up here

    For more information email [email protected]

  • The Yeomen of The Guard open rehearsal – 31st Jan

    We are soon to start our new term rehearsing Gilbert and Sullivan’s classic The Yeomen of the Guard! We’ll be kicking off with a fun and lively introduction at the Open Rehearsal. It is free of charge to attend and everyone is welcome!

    Come along to meet our esteemed directors: Artistic Director Rachel Middle and Music Director Chris Jacklin. You’ll get to hear their exciting vision for the show, sing a piece of the music from the score and learn about roles, upcoming auditions, and everything that doing a show with GLOC entails!

    There are no auditions to take part in the chorus, or helping backstage – the more the merrier!

    Wednesday 31st Jan, 18:45 – 21:45

    St. Gabriel’s Church Hall,  Pimlico

    Auditions will take place the following week (3rd Feb onwards).

    The Yeomen of the Guard will be performed 19th-22nd June at The Bridewell Theatre in central London, with an additional performance at The International Festival of Gilbert and Sullivan at the Buxton Opera House on 29th July.

    Any questions, please reach out to us at [email protected]

    We look forward to seeing you soon!

  • If G&S did Eurovision…

    By Mark Pim, with suggestions from Emma Rettie and Jonathan Broad

    Unfortunately time – and good taste – prevented Gilbert and Sullivan from ever writing a Eurovision song. But if they had done for some of their characters, what might they have sung?

    (Get ready for some torturous G&S puns. Although some of these work suprisingly well as is)

    Flying the Flag (For You) sung by The Pirate King
    Oh, better far to live and die
    Under the brave black flag I fly
    all over the world
    Flying the flag for you


    Diva sung by Yum-Yum
    Can this be vanity?

    Puppet on a string sung by Lady Jane
    If you say you love me aesthetically, I’ll poetically
    Be there
    Like a puppet on a string

    Take me to your heaven sung by Thespis
    With the score for Thespis lost, who’s to say this didn’t feature as a solo for the title character?

    Save your kisses for me sung by Alexis
    ‘My dear, you will save all your kisses for me if you please while dancing a jaunty routine’
    ‘I’m sure Dr. Daly would disapprove of it’

    While you’re here – take a look at the details of our next show – The Grand Duke! Details here

    Waterloo – sung by Phoebe (to Wilfred)
    Wilfred – couldn’t escape if I wanted to
    Wilfred – knowing my fate is to be with you

    Rise like a phoenix sung by Sir Roderic Murgatroyd
    Now all I want to see is When the night wind howls performed in a camp Eurovision style!

    Making your mind up sung by Edwin (the defendent)
    But if you wanna see some more
    Bending the rules of the game
    Will let you find the one you’re looking for
    And then you can show that you think you know
    You’re making your mind up

    Hold me now sung by Luiz and Casilda

    Just hold me now
    And I will know
    Though we’re apart
    We’ll always be together

    Tu te reconnaîtras (you’ll recognize yourself) sung by Hilarion, Cyril, Florian, Melissa and Lady Psyche
    Slightly tenuous? Yes. There are a lot of shows to find Eurovision songs for

    Better the devil you know sung by Ludwig and Rudolph

    Baby, don’t do things that make me blue
    You know my love is always true
    Baby, don’t do things that take their toll
    Like make me eat a sausage roll

    Ne partez pas sans moi (don’t leave without me) sung by Leila and Celia
    If there’s anyone who could have stopped the Peers from leaving, it’s Celine

    Congratulations sung by Ralph and Josephine
    I was afraid that maybe you thought you were above me
    That I was only fooling myself to think you’d love me
    But then tonight you said you couldn’t live without me
    That round about me you wanted to stay

    Boom-bang-a-bang sung by Tarara
    He’ll go up –
    Blown up with dynamite!

    Boom bang-a-bang-bang all the time

    Bonus entry – My Lovely Horse sung by Major General Stanley
  • The Grand Duke – Sullivan’s hidden gem polished to a sparkle

    The premiere of Colin Jagger’s restored score for Gilbert and Sullivan’s The Grand Duke will be performed in London at the Bridewell Theatre on the 7th-10th June 2023, and at the International Festival in Buxton on 4th August. Buy tickets from The Grand Duke page

    Colin Jagger, for 20 years Director of Music at the University of Portsmouth, hates to let error-ridden published scores detract from some of Sir Arthur Sullivan’s best music. Having previously prepared a new critical performing edition of The Yeomen of The Guard for Oxford University Press, he saw Gilbert and Sullivan’s last collaboration – The Grand Duke – as an obvious candidate for reappraisal:

    “There is something about being told repeatedly that one of the last works by a great composer who was only 55 at the time, was actually very substandard – I struggled to believe it. And so, when the British Library acquired the manuscript during the pandemic and it became available to study I decided to have a look. I was immediately taken with it, and far from it being substandard, I am more inclined to think it is at least musically one of their best works.”

    In preparing the score, Colin was struck with how Sullivan, “writing with a fairly basic ink pen, could work so unbelievably quickly and with so few errors”. Published scores in the intervening years have been less accurate unfortunately, introducing innumerable mistakes, discrepancies and contradictions, which have plagued amateur and professional groups attempting to produce the work ever since. And so, after nearly two years of painstaking and meticulous work, both to faithfully transcribe Sullivan’s intentions in the manuscript and to collate all the materials – music, lyrics, dialogue, stage directions, we now have what will hopefully become the de facto performing edition of this work.

    The proof of any theatrical work is of course a live performance. Grosvenor Light Opera Company (GLOC) were serendipitously planning to present The Grand Duke in 2023. Colin offered them the opportunity to ‘try out’ the new edition in practice and the company leapt at the chance.

    Director Vicky Simon and Musical Director Christopher Jacklin both see the piece’s flaws as a product of the fractious working relationship between the authors after personal and financial disagreements. By the time of The Grand Duke their interest in the partnership had waned and neither had interest in refining the work as they had done for previous operas. While the pair meticulously edited, supervised and revised scores and libretti to earlier works such as The Pirates of Penzance or The Mikado (and so we may regard them as definitive and authorial), The Grand Duke (which never benefitted from a revival in Gilbert’s lifetime) had far less editorial oversight or care. Colin’s new edition gives it that care, and in this production Vicky and Christopher have been judicious in cuts to the book to keep it trim and well paced, while keeping true to the setting, costuming and presentation that Gilbert and Sullivan intended.

    The company have found in rehearsal that Colin’s new edition has been prepared with care not just for its authors, but for the performer. The vocal score is abundant with careful aids to musical directors and singers: alternative lyrics and underlays, optional cuts and fully cross-referenced parts and chorus books and an abridged version provides an easily accessible performing edition of the work. It’s an edition designed to be performed by companies of all sizes and resources. The vocal score and a reduced chorus score will be released for free with the orchestral parts and full score available commercially.

    A new edition such as this can give this overlooked gem of a work the recognition it has lacked and enable many more companies to enjoy what it has to offer. Anyone interested in seeing the results is encouraged to book a ticket to GLOC’s production, either in London at The Bridewell Theatre on Fleet Street (7-10th June only. 7:30pm, matinee at 2:30pm on Saturday) or on the 4th August at the International Gilbert and Sullivan festival in Buxton. More details and tickets at The Grand Duke page

    About Colin Jagger

    Colin read music at Manchester University, before moving to the USA for a second degree in orchestral conducting. He ended up living there for seven years before moving back to the UK and got a job as Director of Music at the University of Portsmouth, where he remained for 20 years. He now devotes his time to research.

    About GLOC

    Grosvenor Light Opera Company is London’s leading G&S Society, and one of the only amateur operatic societies both to rehearse and perform in Central London. As a result, they attract a membership largely of young professionals, who work in the centre of town, together with some students attending one of London’s universities and colleges.

    They perform at least one fully-staged G&S production, accompanied by a professional orchestra, every season and supplement this with other staged and semi-staged concert performances.

    The company was founded in September 1949 by John Wilmshurst, its purpose being to study and perform the operas of Gilbert and Sullivan. Over the years it has become the leading amateur company in London for presenting the Savoy Operas.