The Gilbert & Sullivan Group will meet on Tuesday 21st May at 2.00pm at Leigh Community Centre. We will be watching a DVD recording of Utopia Limited performed by Savoynet at The International G&S Festival in Harrogate in 2016. The show won awards for Best Female Voice and Best Concerted Item “Eagle High” as well as nominations for 8 other awards. The cast of Savoynet are drawn from all over the world and each year meet for one week before the performance to rehearse the show.
Utopia, Limited, or The Flowers of Progress was the penultimate collaboration between Gilbert and Sullivan, opening more than two years after Gondoliers had closed, and following a legal dispute between Gilbert on the one hand and Carte and Sullivan on the other, the famous “Carpet Quarrel”. Despite their subsequent attempts to patch up their relationship, they would never again be on the same terms as they had been during the eighties.
Utopia was the most extravagantly costumed and staged of all the Savoy Operas. It requires a very large cast. King Paramount of the south seas island of Utopia decides that his people should adopt all English customs and institutions, but he goes a bit overboard and decrees that the kingdom and each of its inhabitants should become a “company limited” based on the English “companies act” of 1862. The king’s daughter, Princess Zara, brings six “flowers of progress” from England to train the Utopian people in “English” customs. But the reforms are too successful, which upsets the judges of the Utopian Supreme Court, the “Public Exploder” and ultimately the entire populace, which revolts against them. Zara realises that an essential element has been forgotten, namely “government by party”. Introduce that and the result would be “general and unexampled prosperity”.
Grim’s Dyke Hotel
During one of the group’s monthly meetings we were told about performances of the works of Gilbert and Sullivan at a Best Western hotel near Harrow Weald.
The Grim’s Dyke Hotel was originally the home of Sir W. S. Gilbert and is located in a beautiful secluded position only 12 miles from Central London. A professional company now regularly produce works by Gilbert and Sullivan and having obtained a schedule of events we chose a performance of The Mikado.
Five members attended this costumed performance which took place in Gilbert’s former Music Room whilst the guests were dining. After the first course the performers sang the first act and we then had our main meal and desert plus coffee, after which we were treated to the second act of this operetta. We were delighted to recognise some familiar faces performing as they are part of the National Gilbert and Sullivan Company. Also in the audience was the organiser of the annual event which takes place in Harrogate for several weeks every August.
Those attending enjoyed being entertained in the perfect setting with a comfortable overnight stay in a 19th century secluded country house with beautiful gardens.
Written by John and Pat Wickham
This was the first meeting of members interested in the works of Gilbert & Sullivan and was held in the Leigh Community Centre on 8 February, 2017. It was attended by 11 enthusiasts who introduced themselves and gave a brief introduction on how they became interested in the works of this 19th century theatrical partnership. Some of the attendees have been involved since their schooldays, whilst others enjoyed singing in performances of the operettas, but everyone was keen to enhance their experience of the works.
The meeting was given information about The Gilbert & Sullivan Society which provides a magazine three times a year containing interesting articles about the world of Gilbert & Sullivan for a modest subscription. Around the country there is the Manchester Society Convention over a weekend in April at the Alma Lodge Hotel, Stockport where members of the Society immerse themselves in all things G & S. The London Society hold regular events and meetings at either Conway Hall or Club for Acts and Actors, both located in central London. These may be of interest to members.
We were advised about various performances of the operettas due to take place over the coming months, which include a performance by a local group known as the Ploverleigh Savoy Players at the Palace theatre in July where they will be performing “Ruddigore”. The annual G & S festival held each year in August was also mentioned, together with the performances by the English National Opera Company of The Pirates of Penzance at the London Coliseum between 9 February and 25 March. Great interest was shown in the Gilbert & Sullivan Opera Dinners which take place on a regular basis at the Grim’s Dyke Hotel in Middlesex. This is a Best Western Hotel which was formerly the home of Sir W. S. Gilbert and every month there are fully costumed performances of one of their classic operettas in the Music Room. Some of these are ‘black tie’ events.
It is hoped to arrange group outings to some of these performances, especially at the Palace Theatre, and enquiries will also be made about the possibility of seeing a performance of The Mikado at the Grim’s Dyke Hotel in June. Further details will be given to members as to the cost and availability of these events.
Monthly meetings will be held on the third Tuesday each month at the Community Centre with a request for a donation from each attendee of £2.00 to cover the cost of hiring the room. These meetings will concentrate on one of Gilbert and Sullivan’s works and it is hoped to show part of a DVD of the operetta chosen and talk about its origins and the content of the work. At the March meeting we will be talking about The Sorcerer.