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Vol. XXV No. 7
 - Oh, the man who can rule a theatrical team -

Sunday June 10 at 2:00 PM ELECTION/FANTASY MEETING

 In This Issue: 

Articles

Calendar:
Performances and auditions in NE and elsewhere

Reviews 

 

 

 

 

 

 


ELECTION/FANTASY MEETING

(How to get there
)

Sunday June 10 at 2:00 PM

We'll be meeting once more at the Arlington home of Membership Chair Janice Dallas to act out our dreams by performing something out-of-character or infrequently done, and to usher in a new NEGASS board.

ELECTIONS: President Don Smith has assured all that he is willing to serve if re-elected to his position. Program Chair Art Dunlap, holder of a post which is renewed annually, feels that he has served long enough. Fortunately, Carl Weggel has offered to take his place -- does he have any competition? Dick Freedman is willing to try the post of Treasurer, which Philip Burstein prefers to relinquish - similarly, will he have to fight for the post? But if Dick becomes Treasurer, his Member-At-Large position will fall open. And, as Sheldon Hochman wishes to step down from his own MAL position, that leaves room for two new Members-At-Large.

If you're interested in any of the posts opening this year, please be in touch with the current Board!

FANTASIES: After the election, we'll turn to pure fun. Last year's Fantasy meeting featured a baritone Little Buttercup, a mezzo Lord Chancellor, and various other anomalies - as well as several perfectly reasonable standardly-cast performances - and ended in a grand free-for-all during which one person after another asked the assembled multitude to take parts in a finale in which one individual longed to sing a part. Come with your scores, and be ready to sing anything

-- mlc 

  

MAY MEETING: A GILBERT AND SULLIVAN MASTER CLASS

The Second Annual NEGASS Masterclass took place on Sunday, 13 May with a "crowd" of some 20 avid NEGASSers (including performers) in attendance. Eileen St. David, who ran the class (with able accompaniment by Eric Schwartz), encouraged the performers to "dare to try new ideas" and "risk success" in doing things which they would NOT dare to do in the context of auditions or rehearsals when they were under certain constraints.

Armed with her standard roll of masking tape, with which she always threatens to tie down the arms of performers who let extravagant gestures get in the way of their singing or interpretation (which she never used), Eileen let each of the five participants sing through his/her aria of choice, then helped each one dissect it so that with additional thoughts on their interpretation, each of the performers, however good before, demonstrated marked improvement - noticeable even to the most tone-deaf member of the audience.

After Janice Dallas began with her rendition of Princess Ida's I built upon a rock, there was a SORCERER trio, with Bob Russell blasting his way through Dr. Daly's opening recitative and aria, Dan Kamalic introducing John Wellington Wells and Elaine Crane as Constance lamenting Dr. Daly's lack of attention in When he is here. Tony Parkes 'punished' the audience with A more humane Mikado.

It is always enjoyable to hear the interpretations improve under the guidance of a Master Coach like Eileen and from that point of view and that of the performers, the event was most worthwhile. But it is unfortunate that the attendance was such that the NEGASS Board will have to seriously consider whether events with such a low turn-out are worth the expense.

-- J. DONALD SMITH, PRESIDENT

[Visit the web page Ron Dallas has posted, full of photos he took at the meeting! - mlc]

[Responses? We personally thought that hearing these excellent singers plus Eileen's useful comments made this a truly valuable meeting, which many performers and audience members ought to experience. (In particular, it was good to hear new member Elaine Crane, who is a very welcome addition to the local talent pool!) And although attendance was not huge, it was not less than We have seen at many other meetings. NEGASSers, how say you? - shall we hold another Master Class next year? Any ideas to make the class more attractive to a larger audience? - mlc]

Tentative Meeting Schedule, 2000-2001 

6/10 Elections/Fantasy Day
8/26 Picnic Meeting hosted by Dick Freedman

Next Bray Copy Deadline: August 5, 2001

Next Bray Stuffing: Sunday, August 12 at 3:00 PM at 111 Fairmont St, Arlington, MA. Call Us at (781) 646-9115 evenings and weekends, or send email to marion@leedscarroll.com for directions to Our easy-to-get-to Arlington home. -mlc

Welcome, Welcome, Welcome We New Members Elizabeth and Bruce Moir of Cape Elizabeth, Maine, and Dick Turyn of Auburndale, MA. Dick tells Us: "You could say that I have seen a substantial number of G&S (as in "we know it IS") performed by the D'Oyly Carte. Unless it makes me sound too old." [Too old to enjoy G&S? - never!] He tells Us further that he works at Raytheon in Bedford, learned about us at our THESPIS showing in Newton in January, and recently enjoyed a good production of IOLANTHE presented at the Roxbury Latin and Windsor School - We hope he'll write a review! Hearty Greeting Offer We!

Our August meeting will be a Picnic on August 26 at the home of Dick and Ilana Freedman - more news next month!

-- mlc 

G&S LPS FOR SALE Greetings... I am writing to inform you of a set of Gilbert and Sullivan albums that I am offering for sale. They are MIKADO, YEOMEN, PINAFORE and RUDDIGORE. These records were made by The D'Oyly Carte Opera Company on the London label. Each album consists of 2 12 inch long-play records. A libretto is included in each album.

The condition of these records is mint, no scratches. Covers as well. Since they were made in the early 60's this is amazing. The price is $100.00 for the set, plus postage.

To assure you of the quality of these records I will send you a tape of bits and pieces that you will find interesting. This, of course if you are really interested in purchasing. Let me hear from you. If you know of others that may have an interest pass it on.)

-- CHARLES A. TRIMBLE
charlietrimble@msn.com

[Bad news, Charlie - between the printing of this issue and this webbing, We have heard that your price is unlikely to win customers - as the LPs you are offering are available for much less through e-bay and other such forums! - mlc]

Reviews

HIS EXCELLENCY IN NY [Our noble President shared this article, which he originally sent to SavoyNet] On Saturday April 28 I took the opportunity for a quick trip to New York for the meeting of the NY G&S Society in order to hear the presentation of Gilbert and Carr's His Excellency. Although I have been a member for many years, this was the first occasion on which I was able to attend a meeting.

The trip was well worth the effort. Marc Shepherd acted as Emcee in providing a historical background for the opera as well as giving a narrative to link together the musical numbers and conducting the ensembles. He had also spent considerable time in putting together a good performing edition of the vocal score - minus all of the musical mistakes and typographical errors which are present in the original. (Disclaimer: it was my copy of the vocal score which he used.) The result was an opera which is very much better than its reputation deserves and one which would be well worth hearing in its entirety, given that what was performed on this occasion were the best of the solo and small ensemble numbers and only a small taste of the choruses.

The cast included SavoyNetters Peter Emery, Elizabeth Evans-Emery, Sam Silvers, Ann Kirschner, ex-Savoynetter Susan Poliniak along with Craig Tessler, Nathan Bahny, Erik Hanson and Annamarie Hessman. With minimal rehearsal they were generally able to provide good characterization with excellent singing voices (and, in only one case, rather incomprehensible diction.)

Also performed on this occasion was the music for a trio which Marc found among the Gilbert papers in the British Library. The words are present in the American libretto, but not in the British one or the vocal score; it was apparently cut before the first performance. Thus, what we got was presumably a world premiere - well sung and acted by Susan Poliniak, Elizabeth Evans-Emery and Annamarie Hessman. (And how many trios for three women are there in G&S - besides Three Little Maids?)

Marc is promising to do the whole thing in Buxton [England, at the International G&S Festival] as a concert performance some year. I can't wait!

-- DON SMITH 

THE GRAND DUKE AT MIT - Review #1… One hundred years to the day (May 3, 1901) after MIT students presented the American premiere of DUKE, the MIT G&S Players repeated their triumph. As staged by David Jedlinsky, in his G&S directing debut, with some exceptional talent on stage and featuring a coherent orchestral score, vocal score and band parts developed by Mike Storie and Alan Lund of the Seattle G&S Society, this company has shown that DUKE deserves to be part of the standard repertoire of any G&S company worthy of the name.

While the production owed much to the Seattle creation, it generally eschewed the 1930s Duck Soup approach, being set in 1901. The production kept the Seattle division into three acts, with the Second Act opening with the entrance of the Chamberlains, and I will make my comments based on that division. The set for all three acts was a standard "German" village with a red brick wall stage right (which on occasion opened to reveal Julia's dressing room), a functional arch surmounted by an elaborate clock (of which more later), and doors to the Notary's shop and a two-story Inn, from the upper windows of which characters would observe the goings-on in the town square. The Inn also had lettered upon it the rules for the Statutory Duel, providing for the Notary's inspiration in suggesting it. There were some excellent and relevant costumes, including some Greek Gods in the third act (is a THESPIS in the offing?), but overall I was reminded of the recent discussion [on SavoyNet] about amateur theatre if you are wearing your own clothes on stage.

At the Saturday Matinee which I saw, the orchestra was thin on strings and lacked a trumpet, the bassoon and oboe, leading to some problems with singers' entrances when they clearly expected to hear cues which weren't there. There were some obvious disconnects between pit and stage but overall the band under Jennifer Hazel managed quite well.

Andrew Sweet as Ludwig was exceptional, with a great sense of comic timing, a very decent singing voice and superb diction. His third act song At the Outset I Mention was presented in full and at breakneck speed but every word was clear (even if the audience didn't get it.) Dawn Perlner as Lisa had a nice singing voice and played the role as one who has a building coming down around her without quite understanding what was going on. Gregory Baker was the typical love-sick Ernest who more than met his match in the incredible Julia Jellicoe of Ana Albir, who really stole the show - excellent accent both speaking and singing and a stage presence which many performers with much more experience would kill for.

David Michael Daly was a splendid Notary with a clear and resonant voice, who enjoyed being the deus ex machina behind all the actions. Jonathan Weinstein made an excellent Grand Duke Rudolph - clear diction, a fine singing voice and emotive characterization, but he does need to remember to sing and speak to the audience, not the stage floor. Ishani Radha Das was a far too attractive and elegant Baroness, but didn't convey enough of the battleaxe or counterfoil to Rudolph.

In one of the few real miscalculations on the part of the Director, the drunkenness of the Brindisi was far too overdone, although the Baroness did it well. There were also some problems with 'traffic control' with a large cast, but considering that this was Mr. Jedlinsky's debut as a director, it was understandable ("For beginners, it's admirable.") The only major weakness was the choreography. Many of the cast seemed uncomfortable with dancing and had apparently never done a waltz before. Trying to have some 40 people doing the same thing at the same time is difficult enough with experienced performers. One is better off highlighting smaller groups for short turns.

This was an imaginative production, not merely a derivative one. For the Act I finale, the clock struck the hour, various figures animated and the clock (as music box) played the introduction to Strange the Views. (This is the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, after all.) The Chamberlains were dressed as "Court Cards" so it was not entirely surprising, while they were assembling in the introduction to Act II, to see Alice-in-Wonderland, with a flamingo under her arm, scuttle across the stage. In Act III, during So Ends My Dream Julia moved into her dressing room, removed her hat, and while singing about "Tomorrow" pulled on an Annie wig for a few seconds. After Ludwig and Rudolph had put cards up their sleeves, the Notary first pulled out a deck of a different size and color to their consternation (he switched back.) The Monte Carlos and their entourage were dressed in Red and Black, with the Costumier in Green (all the colors of the roulette table.)

Kept in the dialog was the Seattle modification about the drains dating "back to the last visit of Mary, Queen of Scots" (which is purely a Buxton joke.) The original of "dating back to the time of Charlemagne" might have made more sense to a general audience.

What struck me most in this production, is that the plot to dethrone the Grand Duke is really of secondary importance because it is resolved so early in the action. The theme is that of cynicism about marriage and relationships - one which reverts to Gilbert's play Engaged, in which the general theme relating to marriage is "Business is business." As such, if one looks below the surface, it is not a comfortable work with sympathetic characters, but the message is overlaid with a Viennese Operetta with Sullivan writing a very different kind of score than his previous works, one which serves, as Sullivan often does, to mask or mellow Gilbert's real intentions. And if one thinks that Gilbert was being anything but prophetic about marriage - just think about prenuptial agreements (then and now.)

-- DON SMITH 

THE GRAND DUKE AT MIT - Review #2…The American premiere of G&S' s last opera took place May 3, 1901, at MIT (then across the river in Back Bay). A hundred years to the day, the MIT G&S Players put on an anniversary production that did them and the opera proud.

It was the first complete performance of the opera I've ever witnessed; there were only a few lines altered or cut and two tiny musical passages excised. Given the time and financial constraints of a student organization, the results were remarkably successful. Andrew Sweet was a word-perfect, crisply-enunciating Ludwig, surely one of the most demanding parts in all the operas. The other difficult and crucial role, Julia, was played delightfully by Ana Albir who, although a native of Colombia, managed a subtly nuanced German accent for the part. They were the stars of an all-around strong cast, which included Ishani Radha Das's over-the-top Baroness (sexy rather than frumpy), David Michael Daly's Notary a la Zero Mostel, Gregory Baker's properly hapless Ernest, and. the Monte Carlos (Michael Spitznagel and Elicia Anderson) with French accents. Dawn Perlner was a charming Lisa, and for once the Grand Duke himself was played as the young man he is clearly meant to be (he is related to the Princess as Hilarion is to Ida).

I do think it was a mistake to divide Act I with an intermission; the long evening only seemed longer, and the forward pulse was lost. The opening night orchestra had its rough patches, and the dialogue, though delivered without lapses, was not quick enough on the uptake. If the company had had another week to get up to speed and to finish up the costumes (!) (perhaps they had done so by the 4th), they could deliver a first-rate account of this much neglected work.

I was grateful for the completeness; we will have the rare chance to assess the opera again in the fall when the VLO produces it under Jim Ellis's direction. Jim has made very well considered cuts and a few rewritings, all informed by his carefully imagined vision of the opera. Both his method and the "urtext" approach of MIT are laudable; but, as the recent Harvard. UTOPIA proved to me, big cuts can be very disfiguring to Gilbert's structures. The production at Agassiz seemed incoherent (no dance song for Scaphio and Phantis, no entrance song for the King, no Quartet, only four Flowers of Progress, no Beautiful English Girl, and a bizarre tacked-on final chorus) -- so producers should be wary of tinkering too much, even with the lesser known operas. It's nice to think that UTOPIA and GRAND DUKE are now where IDA and RUDDIGORE were thirty years ago in the repertory.

-- JONATHAN STRONG  

THE GRAND DUKE AT MIT - Review #3…We don't write reviews - but We were so impressed by Dave Jedlinsky's directorial debut that we can't refrain from putting in Our oar.

We attended the Saturday evening performance, and were struck first by the handsome and well-made set. Dave's experience on the tech side of theater is visible: his technical chiefs obviously worked with him to create an attractive vision of his concept, instead of being the prima donnas so many Techies can be - wishing the audience to go home humming the lighting cues or analyzing the makeup plot. As a result the sets, costumes, make-up, lighting, props and so on were not merely attractive in their own right, but also successfully advanced the overall shape of the production.

And what a production it was! Dave made the structure of the show clear, wisely buttressing its awkward spots while spotlighting its strengths. For instance - that string of expository quintets in Act I, attractive as the pieces are individually, can drag. Adding a musical clock to introduce Strange the views was a charming illustration of improving an awkward moment by emphasizing it. (On a technical note: Larry Stone, the company's excellent set construction chief, confided in Us that the musical clock we all enjoyed so much was designed and built by the director himself, using Barbie and Ken dolls as the figurines!)

We're happy to report that the costumes for the Saturday night performance were complete and splendid - flattering, attractive, appropriate and well-made. (Well, the theatrical troupe did not have a complete set of togas for the last act - but let that pass.) Yes, the orchestra was a bit thin in places - in fact, the second seat first-violin left half-way through, too sick to continue, leaving MITGASP's excellent long-time concertmistress Johanna Bobrow alone on the part. But the other instruments were there, or at least covered - for instance, one clarinet (MITG&SP Charter Member Yanko Sheiretov) filled in the oboe part, and no entrances where missed. Conductor Jennifer Hazel obviously had the respect of her orchestra, which performed smoothly under adverse circumstances. (Oh - and let's not forget to praise vocal director Kate Thornton, who successfully taught the chorus some of the most complicated, as well as unfamiliar, music in the canon.)

We can't keep silent about one bit of characterization that has generated some conflicting responses: We thought the Baroness's obvious hauteur and elegance, and barely disguised scorn for that mean little wretch Rudolph (whose loose and long-sleeved costume made him appear quite appropriately waif-like, especially during his finely-rendered Sick Song), worked very well. Her drunkenness in the brindisi (which We thoroughly enjoyed) served as another proof that the lady was not really suited to Rudolph - that if she had achieved her goal of becoming Grand Duchess, she would have rushed to squander his fortune on two-shilling gloves and the like. Given this characterization, the standard re-matches at the end worked very satisfactorily: secretly hedonistic Baroness matched with overtly hedonistic Prince; money-craving Grand Duke married to a goose who brings her own golden egg.

Let Us conclude by adding Our voice to the chorus of praise for freshman Ana Albir, whose Ilka von Palmay-accented Julia was a varied and finished performance reminiscent of then-freshman Dan Kamalic's John Wellington Wells several years ago. Dan is now studying at NEC (and will spend the summer singing, among other things, Point in a Brevard Opera Workshop production of YEOMEN) - We're looking forward to seeing where Ana's talents will take her!

-- mlc  

PINAFORE AT FIDDLEHEAD A NEGASSer exclaims: My wife & I saw the Fiddlehead Theatre (Norwood, MA) production of PINAFORE last night… What an enchanting evening… .

-- ALLEN COHEN  

[Thank you, Allen - sorry your complete review wasn't ready for this month's issue - We look forward to seeing it next month! - mlc]

SUDBURY ELECTION RESULTS Janice Dallas has sent Us a list of the new Sudbury (MA) Savoyards officers. This includes Katherine Engel Meifert (Chair), Donna Roessler (Treasurer), Jon Saul (Secretary), Mike Daniel (Church Liaison), Marianne Hatton (School Liaison), Brendon Chetwynd (in the new post of S4 Liaison), and Mike Lague (Trustee). Some positions still remain open - We're sure we'll hear more on the subject.

TECHIES ARE ALWAYS PREPARED! (Forwarded from SavoyNet by Janice Dallas] The foresight of stage crews in preparing for any contingency has often impressed me, but Ridgewood [G&S Society]'s crew surely exceeds all others in this respect. I noticed among their gear a large plastic storage box labelled "Iolanthe Legs." At last, the answer to poor Strephon's dilemma regarding his less durable mortal half!

-- ANDI STRYKER-RODDA

COVENT GARDEN FESTIVAL A distant member writes: Can't remember if your august organ has already mentioned the various G&S productions that will be featured in the above festival between 14 May and 2 June [We fear We have dropped this news - oh, forgive Us!]- if not, maybe there is still time to do so, in case any of your readers has the travel bug.

Two of the productions in particular hark back to the recent Bray discussion about in situ productions - TRIAL in the actual Royal Courts of Justice, and PINAFORE in a ship of some description, the HMS President (dated 1918), which appears to be moored on the River Thames in the heart of the London financial district (the City).

The third G&S in the festival is a modernized GONDOLIERS. The intriguing blurb on the festival website reads [in part] as follows:

Take Sullivan's great tunes, add a little jazz, mix in a handful of love and laughter, stir vigorously, serve hot!

… A Chicago mafia family descends on the sophisticated surroundings of a London Italian jazz café, The Gondola!… Their aim is to find out which of the sexy Palmieri brothers is the new head of a powerful mob family. They soon find themselves in deeper water than they could ever have imagined possible. Plots and intrigues, love and romance, passion and power - everything is at stake in this madcap, delicious concoction.

Best wishes -- DAVID STIEBER

ABOUT CONTRIBUTING TO THE TRUMPET BRAY:

All contributions are welcome, of course - but, strictly speaking, only activities and articles relating to G&S ought to be published. (…although an occasional Yes We Know It's Not slips by when the subject relates to a promising activity presented by long-standing and active member of NEGASS.)

  1. E-mail is the best way to send things! - marion@leedscarroll.com or negass@iname.com will get to Us equally well.
  2. The US Postal Service (aka "snail mail") is fine, too - send letters, preferably typed, or hand-written very clearly so that We can read and correctly reproduce names, dates, etc. - to NEGASS, PO Box 367, Arlington, MA 02476-0004.
  3. The Telephone is a very last choice. We do have an answering machine, but spellings of names and specifics of dates are awfully hard to be sure of when delivered by Word of Mouth (Oricular or otherwise), and We rarely have time to phone people back to check details. Please use the phone only if you have no other choice!
 -- mlc   

Visit http://leedscarroll.com/GSEnsembles.html for a list of G&S ensembles suitable for excerpt programs - mlc

Note: Very old issues of The Trumpet Bray are still available in The G & S Archives. We hope to create a more nearly complete archive of the Bray in the future.

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