I was attempting to work out moves for a fast and furious section of Act 1 of Pirates this morning. I watched a number of YouTube versions of this section, and then listened to a couple of audio recordings and finally went to the piano and played it through a couple of times. I have produced and musically directed many Gilbert and Sullivan shows in my teaching life and have most of the words and music from memory. Infact I quite surprised myself thinking just how many scores I know by heart, or as near as dammit.
Watching and listening I was a little shocked to realise that mostly the speeds of pieces of prime time G&S stage business were virtually all on the slow side of boring ! I have always known in my subconscious that to be truly entertaining Gilbert and Sullivan's marriage of words and music must be performed at either end of the speed spectrum.
Thus : All the fasts should be fast............even very fast, and all the slows must be S-L-O-W..........
The sad, lovelorn moments should tax the singer a little ( and sometimes a lot!), and the lovely Sullivan melodies savoured at a speed which really means Lento or Adagio, and the furious or vibrantly jolly bits should be just that, almost breathless and exhilarating. The changes between the two speeds need to be dramatic and whirlwind ish !
The bit I was trying to block in my head was the 'Too late !' 'Ha Ha!', when the slightly dim pirates surprise the girls on the beach and try to capture them ! It is an exciting and madcap moment, full of screams and roars as well as singing. When it is done at 'moderato' it is deeply unimpressive and rather bland.
No ! My Pirates will rush the girls, swing them around and behave wildly, the girls will rush around trying to escape with all the inhibitions of Red Indian maidens around a totem pole !
And the audience will be as thrilled, excited and exhausted as they are by the time the tabs comes down !