Wednesday, 14 July 2010

Refrain audacious Tar

The passionate Ralph.....

The best duet for me in all Gilbert and Sullivan operas is the one between Josephine and Ralph in HMS Pinafore. It is so dramatic, and unlike the Mabel/Frederic duet in Pirates it is shorter and much more to the point!

I simply love the 'spit' in the fast sections, it sounds and feels angry, which drives it and the drama along with such passion. Then the soft section is full of dejection and love all at the same time.

It is based on the mistaken thought that Josephine does not love Ralph, the lowest sailor of the low, when infact she does. In this duet, as in Jane Austen's 'Emma', where Austen wrote ''I am going to take a heroine whom no-one but myself will much like'' we really do not warm to Josephine as much as the other leading ladies, or heroines, and when she rails at Ralph with her first line of 'Refrain audacious tar your suit from pressing, Remember who you are and whom addressing'....she is a real minx! But when Ralph returns the fireworks he speaks from the heart with 'Proud lady have your way, unfeeling beauty, You speak and I obey, it is my duty', the strongest line in the show,

People in the business can be so snobbish about G&S, but when it is sung really well and with precision and passion it is wonderful, as well as surprisingly tricky, and full of vocal and technical pitfalls. It is a little like Novello and Offenbach. Less good performers can sing it, but the best singers make it sound delicious, and worthy of the finest voice and the most superlative musicianship.

Of course the rest of the story is largely absurd moments combined with lovely tunes, and the usual 'swapped babies' endgame, which we have come to know and love.

Swapped babies - I ask you, do you think it was to do with NHS cuts ?!

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