Sale Gilbert and Sullivan Society
Director: Helen Fieldsend
Musical Director: Steve Rayner
Princes Ida is Gilbert’s comically dramatic take on Tennyson’s poem “The Princess” and is the only Savoy Opera in three acts and to be written in blank verse. It is based on one of Gilbert’s earlier plays, The Princess, closely following the details of Tennyson’s story. At its heart is a satirical overview of Victorian women’s educations and the early women’s movement.
A more than adequate simple setting gave maximum room on stage for the large cast of twenty eight. They were elegantly costumed and the lighting created the overall mood.
The direction, although a little static at times, brought out the best in the company and created some delightful stage pictures. The conviction of the chorus was integral to the success of the production. Sullivan’s score was sprightly crisp in its interpretation from the M.D., and the orchestra of two very fine pianists. There were strong supporting roles; in particular Susie Grubet, as Melissa, and Bekah Murray, as Sacharissa. Their interplay gave brought their characters to life with Bekah displaying a natural stage presence.
The opening scene in the pavilion of King Hildebrand’s palace is where we were tpo meet Prince Hilarion and his friends, Cyril and Florian. Daniel Metcalf was suitably romantic as the young Prince. His fine voice captured Sullivan’s uplifting melodies. Hildebrand, the brutish King, was proficiently portrayed by Ian Whitfield whose vocals were well suited to the timeless G. & S. repertoire.
Florian and Cyril, the two courtier friends, were acted out playfully by Tony Noden and Andrew Percival. The high jinks of entering the women’s anti-male university by cross dressing to join their ranks, were buoyantly and humorously delivered. Florian met up with his sister, Lady Psyche, solidly sung and acted by Janice Rendel. Alison Davis could not have been surpassed as the abstract philosopher, Lady Blanche.
Principal of the university is Princess Ida who was married in childhood’s happy hour to Hilarion. The battle of the sexes. and the marriage of the royal babies. were brought to a head when the identity of the disguised Prince and his friends were revealed. Ida’s brothers, the blockheaded warriors, were enjoyably played by Graham Eagland (Arac), Stephen Hill (Scynthius), and John Coats (Guron). Their father, the hunchback King Gama, is a character who is not as well drawn as other “patter” characters but has two enjoyable numbers to deliver. Bobbie Greatorex delivered the necessary grumbling authority. His daughter, the Princess Ida, had renounced mankind until love rules the day. Helen Fieldsend, as the “mighty maiden”, charmingly portrayed the role, and her rendition of “Minerva” commanded the audience’s attention.
This production created an evening of music and laughter, and was thoroughly enjoyed by the audience.