Saturday, March 20, 2010

English eccentricity in North Carolina?

English eccentricity? Definitely not (well maybe). I refer to those ingenious Victorian gentlemen William Schwenck Gilbert and Arthur Seymour Sullivan.

After living in North Carolina for four years and gradually becoming more "American" in many of my habits and, indeed outlooks, even though clinging to my "Englishness", I was reminded, with a (very pleasant) jolt that I still retained it. On Thursday evening, our son Stuart (English born, American citizen) invited me to the preview performance of Gilbert and Sullivan's The Mikado at the wonderful Carolina Theater.

I had heard of The Durham Savoyards, as a neighbor and his wife are very involved. The Savoyards have for 47 years been performing the dynamic duo's works. Stuart had been before so knew what to expect. I was ready to enjoy myself, especially as The Mikado is probably the best known of the fourteen operas created by G&S. I looked forward to hearing the familiar music and clever lyrics with keen anticipation.

What I wasn't ready for was the amazing appeal of Gilbert & Sullivan to an audience of enormous cultural diversity. Imagine my surprise when, immediately after the orchestral conductor was introduced, a familiar drum roll saw everyone standing for the British national anthem! A spotlight was directed on "The Royal Box" and shone on none other than "Her Majesty Queen Victoria" (accompanied, I noticed, by John Brown).

125 years after the first performance of The Mikado, sub-titled The Town of Titipu, this performance was as fresh as ever (no, I wasn't at that first performance). To say I enjoyed the evening would be an under-statment. The send-up of Victorial England's social customs disguised in a Japanese setting, gives us such characters as Nanki-Poo, Yum-Yum, Pooh-Bah, Pish-Tish. The appeal I can understand, as nearly 48 hours later I am still singing the songs.

The Durham Savoyards deserve praise and support for this wonderful production and yes, I have already pencilled in my diary the dates of next year's performances of Princess Ida.

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