The Well-Tempered Ear

Classical music datebook: Madison Savoyards to give 6 performances of Gilbert and Sullivan’s “HMS Pinafore” starting this Friday

July 21, 2010
13 Comments

By Jacob Stockinger

I’ll confess: I am not a big Gilbert and Sullivan fan.

Maybe it’s because I am too much of a Francophile. (I also don’t like a lot of British TV with the exception of “Masterpiece Theatre” and “MI-5”)

Or perhaps I’m  just humor-impaired. (I also don’t much care for Haydn’s, Beethoven’s or Mozart’s ideas of humor in music either.)

Gilbert and Sullivan (below) are not really classical music figures, so maybe I shouldn’t be putting them on the blog.


But I know plenty of serious classical musicians and classical music fans who relish seeing, listening to and even performing Gilbert and Sullivan’s many operettas. And I’ll admit that I once sang in the pirate chorus in “The Pirates of Penzance” and I did have a fun time watching the G&S bio-pic “Topsty-Turvey.”

Besides, last week I posted several obituaries for and an interview with the late great conductor Sir Charles Mackerras. He was known not only for his Mozart and Handel and Beethoven and  Brahms and Janacek, but also for his — a drumroll, please — Gilbert and Sullivan.

And of course summer —  for the past 48 summers in Madison — means it’s Gilbert and Sullivan time.

Especially this week, I will give the Madison Savoyards production of “HMS Pinafore”  (below, with Dean Messerly as Dick Deadeye and Ryan Thorn as Captain Corcoran.) a post. There is really no other competition on the classical front– or quasi-classical front —  at least.

And the Savoyards deserve the publicity, no matter what is wrong with me.

This year the Madison Savoyards, Ltd. are presenting Gilbert and Sullivan’s first smash hit, HMS Pinafore, at Music Hall on the UW campus on Fridays and Saturdays July 23 and 24, and July 30 and 31, at 7:30 p.m.  There will also be matinee performances on Sunday, July 25, and Sunday, August 1, at 3 p.m. Tickets are $15, $30 (most adult tickets) and $45. Children under 13 are $5, seniors over 60 get a $2 discount. Group discounts are also available (call 262-1500).

Here is part of a press release from The Madison Savoyards:

“The traditional hallmarks of the Madison Savoyards, a full orchestra and costumes, bring the HMS Pinafore to life as Gilbert and Sullivan intended.  The story of romance is chock full of barbs at British society and class differences.

“Gilbert’s fun with words and pointed remarks still bring hoots of laughter to audiences everywhere. Sullivan’s music matches Gilbert’s text with wonderful tunes and sends audience out humming and whistling tunes they already know but forgot were so much fun.

“Not only did HMS Pinafore tie the record for longest opening run in London, it was the first G&S show to enjoy great international popularity.  It has remained a favorite since its first performance in 1878.

(The stage direction of the two-hour show is in the capable hands of Terry Kiss Frank, a well-known local theater director and actress.  Grant Harville, the assistant music director in last year’s “The Yeomen of the Guard,” will be music director and conductor.  Both are experienced in presenting Gilbert and Sullivan operas for the local audiences.”

Tickets are available through the Vilas Hall ticket office (608 262-1500), or on line at http://www.madisonsavoyards.org

(Adds The Ear: At that web site, you will also find lots of background information, parking directions, a video/audio clip and much more. It’s well worth exploring.)

“The Madison Savoyards, Ltd. has been presenting Gilbert and Sullivan’s comic operas for 48 years and strives to make each presentation come alive by knowing and respecting the special gifts of the authors and gathering a gifted and enthusiastic cast and crew.  The Savoyards last presented “HMS Pinafore” in 2000.”

And what kind of shape is The Madison Savoyards in?

The Ear spoke to board of directors president Jim Cain.

“We’re looking forward to celebrating our 50th anniversary in two years, so that tells you something, ” Cain said. “Like most local arts groups, we’re never very far away from trouble. We have finished the last fews years in the black — though not by much. So we are always looking for donors and contributors, but we’re in good shape.”

The Pinafore cast of mostly local people, Cain adds, ” is good with a lot of strong voices. This community has a lot of good singers with ties to the university and other organizations.”

To whet your appetite, here is a sample of one of the witty musical highlights of “HMS Pinafore” as done by a different troupe that is  if I recall correctly, not as good a G&S company as The Madison Savoyards:

Now educate The Ear:

Are there others who just don’t connect with Gilbert and Sullivan? Why?

And those of you who love Gilbert and Sullivan, can you tell me what is the big attraction?

And what did you think of this local production?

The Ear wants to hear.


Posted in Classical music

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