The Well-Tempered Ear

Classical music: Madison Savoyards offer FREE staged readings of Arthur Sullivan’s “The Zoo” this weekend to help the Henry Vilas Zoo mark 100 years. Also, here is the Savoyards’ schedule for 2012 and 2013 Gilbert and Sullivan shows

August 18, 2011
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By Jacob Stockinger

The Henry Vilas Zoo (below) is celebrating its 100th anniversary.

The Madison Savoyards – long-time summer purveyors of Gilbert and Sullivan in the area – will contribute to the festivities.

The Madison Savoyards (below top, in a photo of this production of summer’s “Utopia, Limited”) will do staged reading of The Zoo,” a one-act comic opera by Sir Arthur Sullivan (below, without Gilbert) at the Henry Vilas Zoo’s Visitors’ Center in Madison on Saturday and Sunday, August 20 and 21, 2011, at 3 p.m. The afternoon performances are free.

There is also a performance at 6:30 p.m. on Saturday, August 20, for which a $10 ticket will be required and can be reserved can be reserved by calling the Friends of the Zoo at 258-9490 or contacting  (there is a link on their website to all of the centennial events –  The Savoyards will be holding their annual meeting between the two shows on Saturday.

As one of the story lines has to do with a frustrated suicide attempt – frustrated because the bears have been moved from the Bear Pit (below) – and as the Vilas Zoo bears have been moved due to the new Northwest Passage exhibit, we were hoping to actually do the work outside and utilize the old bear habitat.  For various reasons that was not feasible, but it’s still a fun “coincidence.”

Several of the cast members are “veteran Savoyards” and several are current and a few are new on this project. Peggy and Greg Walters sang principal roles in the production in 1980, directed by Michael Goldberg and David Crosby out at Oakwood Theatre.

Here is the official synopsis of “The Zoo”: It was first performed in London at St. James’ Hall on June 5, 1875. David Sytkowski, is the music director and accompanist; Terry Kiss Frank (below) is in charge of the staging, production and cueing:

“The Ladies and Gentlemen of the British Public are enjoying an outing to the London Zoological Gardens when they notice a young man, Aesculapius Carboy, attempting to do away with himself.  He explains that the father of Laetitia Grinder, the woman he loves, rejected his suit because he is a mere apothecary (pharmacist).  The lovers had arranged to communicate through prescriptions, but, according to a note from Laetitia’s sister, there was a mix-up in the most recent delivery.  A peppermint dose meant for his beloved was instead delivered to her father, and an external lotion, meant to raise blisters, was instead taken by Laetitia, Carboy can only assume with fatal results. Hence, his loss of interest in life. 

As Eliza Smith, in charge of the refreshment stall, orders him to desist, who should appear but her beloved Thomas Brown; he suspects Carboy of being a rival, but Eliza reassures him and proceeds to ply him with goodies. Laetitia arrives in a fear that she is too late to save her intended; it seems the note from her sister was a joke.  Carboy is convinced she is not a ghost and they sing a rapturous duet.  Thomas’ overindulgence leads to his dramatic collapse; the crowd gathers ‘round offering various opinions and advice while Carboy examines the prostrate gentleman.  He sends Eliza off for a prescription and then discovers the Order of the Garter beneath Thomas’ vest.  It seems he is a peer in disguise.  When Thomas recovers consciousness he admits the truth and explains he has been incognito as he searches for true love and virtue . . . embodied by Eliza.  Urged on by the group, he leaves to change into ducal attire.

Mr. Grinder appears in search of his daughter and Carboy; though everyone tries to appeal to his finer feelings they are stymied, and the hapless Aesculapius once more resolves on death.  Amid a touching farewell, he lowers himself into the Bear Pit.

Thomas returns and reveals his true identity – the Duke of Islington – to Eliza, asking her to marry him.  She is reluctant to leave the beasts she loves, concerned that they will not be properly nourished without the offerings from her cart.  Her husband-to-be reassures her, explaining that he has purchased all of the animals and that they will make their home with them.  Everyone’s attention is then drawn back to the Bear Pit as Carboy reemerges.  The Zoo’s patrons are annoyed at his continuously arousing their sympathy and then not dying.  He explains that the bears have been moved to a new exhibit, and that he will instead “try the lion’s den.”  The Duke, touched by his devotion, makes a financial arrangement with Grinder in return for his permission for Laetitia and Aesculapius to be wed; in addition, he offers them an income of their own.  All rejoice in anticipation of a life of joy and wealth.”

In related news, The Savoyards have announced the Gilbert and Sullivan works they will do in future years:

Mark your Calendar:

Midwinter Concert: February 10, 2012 at First Unitarian Society

July 2012: “The Pirates of Penzance

July 2013: “Iolanthe”

For more information, visit:

and also:

Posted in Classical music

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