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Gondoliers Cast

Synopsis

History

 

GONDOLIERS CAST

THE DUKE OF PLAZA-TORO (a Grandee of Spain) ROBIN LAURIE
LUIZ (his Attendant) BYRON MILLER
THE DUCHESS OF PLAZA-TORO DIANE NORTON
CASILDA (her daughter) LYNDA SMART
DON ALHAMBRA DEL BOLERO (the Grand Inquisitor) DEREK NORTON

Venetian Gondoliers
MARCO PALMIERI RICHARD MCKEOWN
GIUSEPPE PALMIERI DAVID LOVELL
ANTONIO RALPH FOGGIN
GIORGIO MIKE BEVAN
ANNIBALE ROBERT KEMP
DRUMMER BOY DANIEL CARTER

Contadine
GIANETTA NICOLA HARRIS
TESSA CAROLYN CARVELL
FIAMETTA ANN DE VOIL
VITTORIA DEBBIE LEE
GIULIA MARCIA HARRIS
INEZ (the King's Foster-mother) HELEN HURST

Chorus of the Gondoliers
STEPHANIE BATCHELOR, DOREEN BEVAN, KATH CARTER, ANN DE VOIL, TRACIE FLAXMAN, ELIZABETH FOX, ZENA GRADY, EMMA GREEN, LAURA GREGORY, MARCIA HARRIS, JO HAYES, PAT HUMPHREYS, HELEN HURST, DEBBIE LEE, PAM SPOKES, BETTY WHALLEY

TOM ALLEN, MIKE BEVAN, ERIC BLOWER, JOHN BOOTH, RALPH FOGGIN, GRAHAM FROST, BARRY HODBY, RICHARD HOPWOOD, ROBERT KEMP, DON JONES, DEREK McDONALD, FREP ROWE, ALAN STEWART, MIKE WHITLOCK

 

PRODUCTION TEAM

Directors - Geoffrey Shovelton & Deborah Clague
Musical Director - David Toft

THE STORY OF THE GONDOLIERS

The scene is a piazzetta in Venice. The girls bemoan the fact that there are so many of them but only two gondoliers they consider worth marrying! Despite the entreaties of the other gondoliers the girls plan to wait until Marco and Giuseppe Palmieri have chosen their brides (before succumbing to anyone else).

The brothers arrive and, having duly selected their brides, the two happy couples - Marco with Gianetta and Giuseppe with Tessa - leave to be married. Enter the impoverished Duke of Plaza-Toro, his Duchess, their daughter Casilda and the Duke's Attendant, Luiz. It transpires that Casilda, to her horror, was secretly betrothed in babyhood to the infant son of the King of Barataria and they are trying to ascertain his whereabouts.

When left alone Casilda rushes to the arms of her secret love, Luiz; they sadly agree that their love cannot be. This woeful scene is interrupted by the Duke and Duchess who enter with Don Alhambra Del Bolero who explains that there is a problem; the king is apparently one of two gondoliers (no prizes for guessing who) but no-one knows which it is except for Luiz' mother who was the babies nurse. She is under interrogation!

The ducal party enter the palace, contemplating the complications life can bring. Marco and Giuseppe re-enter with their brides and Tessa sings of their happiness. However, this is short lived when Don Alhambra tells the gondoliers of their good fortune and says that they must leave for Barataria immediately to rule jointly (while things are sorted out) and, sorry, wives are not allowed!

Their friends are astounded and suspicious at the news, all being confirmed republicans. However, a plan of action is agreed and the prospective kings leave for their island realm, leaving their wives behind.

Three months later we meet the two kings again, now in Barataria and running their monarchy on republican lines which basically means everyone is equal and the two kings do all the work!

Their wives arrive, having got fed up with waiting at home. The ensuing celebrations are spoilt by Don Alhambra who makes the shattering announcement that one of the two couples is not legally married as one of the kings is betrothed to Casilda, now on her way to claim the royal hand.

The two couples leave, pondering the knotty problems they face. The Ducal party arrive, now splendidly dressed, the Duke having raised funds by floating himself on the stock exchange!

Once alone with Marco and Giuseppe, Casilda confesses that she loves someone else. This is cheering news for the two couples but it is still an unprecedented situation they all find themselves in.

Then the court is summoned to hear the announcement of who is the real King of Barataria…

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THE HISTORY OF THE GONDOLIERS

There were already cracks in the Gilbert and Sullivan partnership when, at the beginning of 1889, Sullivan wrote to Gilbert setting out his plans for the future. He intended to write his long delayed grand opera where the music (not the words) would be of paramount importance.

Gilbert was unlikely to be part of any scheme where his words were subservient to the music and he politely suggested an alternative librettist for Sullivan's opera. He also cautioned against venturing too far from a path they had trod, so far, most successfully and considered that The Yeomen of the Guard - their last opera - was as serious as they needed to be. Sullivan's response was that his music had always been sacrificed to Gilbert's words. Gilbert was astonished but reaffirmed that they must work together as equals or not at all. The argument escalated and resulted in both parties saying they would never work with the other again.

After time for reflection (it was now May 1889) Gilbert wrote an appeasing letter to Sullivan, refuting his claims and with a good measure of flattery thrown in. This broke the ice but only after Sullivan (begrudgingly) apologised did work begin on a new opera. Gilbert had previously had the idea of a Venetian plot and Sullivan responded enthusiastically, claiming to be teeming with musical ideas, having just returned from Venice. Having effectively buried the hatchet many thought this would be the beginning of a new golden age for the partnership.

Never had the pair worked so well together; never had Gilbert been so prepared to offer alternatives; never had Sullivan been so amenable. Even when Gilbert suggested a formula for one of the quartets ("In a contemplative fashion") it was accepted by Sullivan. On the other hand, Sullivan deleted choruses and lines without consulting Gilbert but he accepted the cuts without complaint.

The Gondoliers was chosen as the title of the work only five days before the opening and all too soon it was dress rehearsal time. This took place before an invited audience and lasted nearly seven hours - songs, business, even whole scenes were repeated again and again. The gondola shot off the stage as if jet propelled and someone's cloak was soaked in Worcester sauce but, despite these mishaps, the omens were good! Over 1,000 people saw the first performance in December 1889 and encores kept the show going until 11.30pm, particularly at the end of "Regular royal queen".

Unfortunately, the goodwill between the collaborators was not to last and although they did work together again it was following serious acrimonious exchanges and was not considered to be of the same standard as earlier work. For many, The Gondoliers marked the end of an era; it ran for 554 performances and is, undoubtedly, one of the most popular Gilbert and Sullivan operas.

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