Sunday, 8 April 2012

We're called Gondolieri!

It has been almost a week now since I finished performing The Gondoliers. Probably over a week by the time I finish writing this post (Later edit: Yep), which I guess is somewhat overdue. I WAS COPING WITH POST-SHOW BLUES OKAY. Also waiting for people to upload their photos so I could include them.

The Gondoliers, or The King of Barataria was Gilbert and Sullivan's twelfth collaborative work (eleventh of the thirteen which survived in full and are therefore still generally counted). To my recollection (Which admittedly may be flawed), it was after the two had been separated for a while, Gilbert had gone off and done The Mountebanks with Alfred Cellier, and while I personally think it's rather good, Gilbert felt Cellier was not up to the same standard as Sullivan, and so was perhaps quite keen to make things up - hence why Gondoliers starts with a 15 minute or so musical number for the entire opening scene. (Edit: I was wrong. Mountebanks was after Gondoliers, not before. The thing about Gilbert wanting to make things up to Sullivan I think was still true though)
The other notable point I remember about the writing of Gondoliers is that Gilbert was apparently tired of some performers putting on airs and rating themselves above the others, so he wrote a show in which all the nine main principal parts are pretty much equal. And had the two gondoliers sing a whole song about how they'd make everyone equal in the act 1 finale to really drive the point home. I'd say he succeeded pretty well, though the two titular gondoliers are still definitely more important as characters than the other principals.

Anyway, onward to the usual things:

Dramatis Personae

Duke of Plaza-Toro (A Grandee of Spain) - Comic baritone. Of high lineage and very proud of the fact, but recently fallen on harder times (i.e. he's broke), much to his frustration. Although by act 2 he has resolved this difficulty by establishing himself as a public company, The Duke of Plaza-Toro, Limited (An idea  which Gilbert would revisit in Utopia Limited). Very puffed up and self-important, but also very much in the thrall of his wife.

Luiz (His attendant) - Baritone (Though a fairly high one - he effectively acts as a tenor in the SATB of the Ducal party). Noble despite his apparently lowly origins. Secretly in love with Casilda, the Duke's daughter.

Don Alhambra del Bolero (The Grand Inquisitor) - Baritone. Basically acts as an upholder of the status quo. He wants things to remain as they are, and this desire on his part is the cause of the plot as it stands at the beginning of the show.

Marco and Giuseppe Palmieri - Tenor and baritone, respectively. Venetian gondoliers, republicans, loved by all the ladies in Venice (Or at least all the ladies who appear in the show), fun-loving brothers. The two are not exactly the same - as is typical of G&S tenors and baritones, Marco is more romantic and poetical while Giuseppe is more roguish and down-to-earth. But conversely they are not as dissimilar as the typical G&S characters. Each does have some of the qualities of the other, and of course the two are never (Well, hardly ever) onstage separately from each other. (To be precise - as written the two are together throughout the show, but in this production each left the stage briefly during the act 1 finale and Marco left the stage during my song. Oh I didn't mention that I was Giuseppe, did I? I was Giuseppe)

Antonio, Francesco, Giorgio, Annibale - Citizens (Usually also gondoliers, but as our director pointed out, that's not actually specified). Bit parts. A few little solos and lines of dialogue, but otherwise chorus.

The Duchess of Plaza-Toro - Alto. Middle aged and domineering, as is traditional for altos, though also mothering to Casilda. Similar to her husband in feelings of self-importance.

Casilda (Her daughter) - Soprano. Somewhat flighty and impetuous, though still with the familial pride. Secretly in love with Luiz.

Gianetta and Tessa - Soprano and alto, respectively. The gondoliers' wives. Much like their husbands, they are very similar and yet different, in ways generally matching their respective husbands. In general I feel the wives are perhaps more similar than the gondoliers, but in the end it's down to performances in any case. Both very emotional, ranging from beaming joy to tearful sorrow to giving full voice to their fiery tempers, depending on the circumstances.

Fiametta, Vittoria, Giulia - Contadine. Bit parts entailing a few small solos.

Inez (The King's foster mother) - Only appears at the very end of the show to resolve the plot.

You may well note, as I have, that these descriptions are mostly quite short, which I think is down to the construction of the cast. With Gilbert's aforementioned intention to make all the parts equal, I feel they each have perhaps less individually, but are much more interesting when treated as groups together. Hence of course I did group the gondoliers and the wives together, but similarly one could talk about the quartet of the gondoliers and their wives; the Ducal party and its component couples of the Duke and Duchess and Luiz and Casilda; Don Alhambra in interaction with both quartets, and then when Casilda is introduced to the gondoliers and their wives. I'm not going to write whole paragraphs about them, though I possibly could, I merely point out that that's really how the show works. The whoole is far greater than the sum of the principal parts.
On that note I will point out one other interesting point about the characters, which our director pointed out to us at the read-through: Gondoliers is the only G&S to show a family group in which both parents are alive. Iolanthe has Iolanthe, the Lord Chancellor and Strephon, but the LC and Strephon don't know they're father and son until the end of the show, so we never see them really as a family group, as we do the Duke and Duchess and Casilda in Gondoliers.
The Ducal party and Don Alhambra
The Gondoliers and their wives.

(I couldn't get the photos to stay next to each other if they were the same size, and if one had to be bigger than the other, of course it had to be the one with me in)

Rapid Plot Summary:
All the ladies love the gondoliers, to the consternation of the other men. The gondoliers determine to choose their wives at random, by being blindfolded and marrying whoever they catch. After some cheating (Precise amount at the director's discretion), they marry Gianetta and Tessa, the ladies they actually wanted. Everyone's happy! Off we go.
Enter the Ducal party, who have come to visit the Grand Inquisitor. While Luiz is off-stage informing Don Alhambra of their arrival, the Duke explains to Casilda that she was wed in infancy to the son of the King of Barataria, and since the former King was recently killed, they've come to Venice to ask the Inquisitor where his son is, so Casilda can be Queen. Before they go in to see him, Luiz and Casilda are left alone long enough to be romantic and then sad because they can no longer be together now Casilda knows she's married.
So they go to see the Don, and he explains the crucial plot point - when the King of Barataria became "a Wesleyan Methodist of the most bigoted and persecuting type", he stole the Prince away to prevent this being passed on, and brought him to Venice, leaving him in the charge of a gondolier. Unfortunately, this gondolier got drunk a bit too often, and forgot which boy was the Prince and which was his own son. So, to quote the following lines which are among my favourites lines in the show:
"So, you are telling me that I am married to one of two gondoliers, but it is impossible to say which?"
"Without any doubt, of any kind, whatever."
And he's going to send Luiz off to fetch his mother, Inez, who was the royal nurse, to identify the Prince (Because obviously she will still recognise him despite not having seen him since he was a baby). Quintet about how life is complicated, exeunt all.
Meanwhile the gondoliers and their wives are generally enjoying themselves being married until Don Alhambra turns up and tells them that one of them is a King, and they are to reign jointly until they find out which - but that they can't take their wives with them to Barataria (He neglects to mention Casilda). Cue Act 1 finale. Planning out how they'll rule, make everything republican and so on, then tearful farewells and off they go.

Now, Act 2 nothing really happens plot-wise until the end to be honest. Everyone's just waiting around for Inez to turn up and resolve everything. But in the meantime there's some excellent character stuff, so it remains highly enjoyable. We see how the gondoliers' republican plans have in practice led to them doing all the work for their courtiers, who are just living it up treating their monarchs as servants. The gondoliers are pretty happy with this though (Or, depending on how you play it, they may just be trying to convince themselves that they are). They miss their wives though. No sooner has Marco finished singing about how wonderful women are (and accepted his applause) than the ladies turn up, having gotten tired of waiting after three months. Everything is happy, but the Don turns up, breaks down why their republican monarchy can't work and thenexplains about the marriage to Casilda, leaving the quartet broken up and dejected. The Ducal party arrive, The Duchess gives Casilda some advice on how to deal with having to love difficult men, the Duke explains to the gondoliers how to be noble, Casilda and the gondoliers discover their common ground of not wanting to be married to each other because they're in love with other people, the wives turn up and onto the act 2 finale.
Inez reveals that when Don Alhambra came to steal the Prince, she substituted her own son, and instead raised the Prince as her son - Luiz! So everyone is actually married to the person they were in love with, the monarch will be someone more suited to it, the gondoliers can go back to being gondoliers, and everyone's happy. Who would've thought it? Other than anyone who had ever seen any G&S, I mean (With the exception of Yeomen, I suppose).

Let's see, what insights on Gondoliers do I have left. I've said the thing about the characters working more as groups than individuals and Gilbert's whole thing about making them equal. I've mentioned the lack of plot in act 2, just looking at the characters instead. Oh, there's a song in act 2 which was cut from this production for the Duke and Duchess, in which they basically explain how they've been exploiting their titles to make money Come to think of it, it's similar to the kind of stuff Pooh-Bah talks about doing in The Mikado, only the Duke and Duchess are rather smug about it rather than being disgusted by the idea. On reused ideas, I already mentioned that the public company thing comes back in Utopia - also the idea of monarchs effectively acting as servants to their subjects appeared in an early version of Pirates with the Pirate King. It didn't work there, but it works here. Oh, and of course baby-swapping happened back in Pinafore as well.

Let's see, things about this production in particular. While the Duke is often portrayed as the kind of genial buffoon that a lot of comic baritones are, the Duchess says in her song that "his temper was volcanic," and I think we tried to have a bit of that in. Oh, I think it's fairly common for the gondoliers to have different costumes for being kings in act 2, and then go off and change back during the act 2 finale once they discover they're not. We didn't have that - the only indication of us being royal were a medallion each. I felt this lent a certain humour to one of my lines: "We quite understand that a man who holds the magnificent position of King should do something to justify it! We are allowed to buy ourselves magnificent clothes, ..." It goes on, but that's the relevant bit. We're allowed to buy ourselves magnificent clothes apparently, and yet we're still wearing our gondolier outfits. Sadly I don't think anyone laughed at it :(
Oh! We had gondolas! Those were cool.

Oh, Kayleigh said I was the best she'd ever seen me, which is not entirely surprising since this is the first lead role she's seen me in since my first HMS Pinafore two years ago, which was my first ever principal role in a proper G&S, so I've definitely improved since then. But it was still really nice to hear. In general my feedback was very good. And I think someone else in the society said others had commented on how I really come alive onstage or something? Which I can definitely believe. So, yeah, basically I'm great ;P

Other than that, there's little I can say about the production other than to say it was fantastic, I loved it, I miss it now it's over, I really feel more a part of the society now having gotten to know more of the people, and I miss them as well now that I won't be seeing most of them for a few months. Post-show blues, like I said.
While there were some worries, with forgetting lines and moves and stuff, and the show being sooner than really expected, as it always is, it all came together brilliantly at the end. I had some great times and look forward to many more great times.

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