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June 15, 2011

Summertime means a boon for Gilbert and Sullivan fans

Some of us would be happy to hear Gilbert and Sullivan operettas at any time of year. Some of us would even be happy to hear them performed by traditional, big-league opera companies.

If the Lyric Opera of Chicago has never turned up its nose at G&S -- the company had another hit this season with a production of "The Mikado" starring such great vocal artists as Stephanie Blythe and James Morris -- there's no excuse for others to be so limiting.

Most of the time, though, it seems we get bursts of G&S mainly in the summertime, when such supposedly lighter fare is more appropriate or marketable, and mostly from ensembles devoted solely to this repertoire.

That's how it is in Baltimore, where the Young Victorian Theatre Company has been fighting the good fight for 40 summers. For its 2011 production, YVT has chosen ...

one of the most beautiful items in the G&S canon, "The Yeomen of the Guard." Performances are July 9-17 at the Bryn Mawr School.

Area G&S fans should also note the second International Gilbert & Sullivan Festival taking place June 24-July 3 in Gettysburg, which puts it within easy distance for most of us. Billed as "the largest and most comprehensive event" of its kind in North America, this enterprise is affiliated with the three-week Gilbert & Sullivan Festival that has its 18th season this summer in Buxton, England.

The remarkable lineup at the Gettysburg fest lists no less than nine staged productions, including "Yeomen," "Pirates of Penzance," "Patience," "The Sorcerer" and "Ruddigore," performed by ensembles from several states and from England. Concerts and a youth production of "Mikado" are also on the schedule at the Majestic Theater in Gettysburg. Various fringe festival events are also planned.

To get you in the mood for a G&S summer, here's one of my favorite examples of the magic this composer and and this librettist could generate -- the duet "I Have a Song to Sing, O" from "Yeoman." Gilbert made it tricky for Sullivan by writing verses that get longer with each stanza. The solution Sullivan devised is wonderful in its simplicity and eloquence:


Posted by Tim Smith at 9:27 AM | | Comments (0)

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About Tim Smith
Born and raised in Washington, D.C., I couldn't help but develop a keen interest in politics, but music, theater and visual art also proved great attractions. Music became my main focus after high school. I thought about being a cocktail pianist, but I hated taking requests, so I studied music history instead, earning a B.A. in that field from Eisenhower College (Seneca Falls, N.Y.) and an M.A. from Occidental College (Los Angeles). I then landed in journalism. After freelancing for the Washington Post and others, I was classical music critic for the Sun-Sentinel in South Florida, where I also contributed to NPR. I've written for the New York Times, BBC Music Magazine and other publications, and I'm a longtime contributor to Opera News. My book, The NPR Curious Listener's Guide to Classical Music (Perigee, 2002), can be found on the most discerning remainder racks.

I joined the Baltimore Sun as classical music critic in 2000 and, in 2009, also became theater critic, giving me the opportunity to annoy a whole new audience. In 2010, my original Clef Notes blog expanded to encompass a theatrical component -- how could I resist calling it Drama Queens? I hope you'll find both sides of this blog coin worth exploring and reacting to; your own comments are always welcome and valued (well, most of them, at least).

Think of this as your open-all-hours, cyber green room, where there's always a performer or performance to discuss, some news to digest, or maybe just a little good gossip to share.
Note: Tim Smith now writes about the fine arts at This blog will be kept in place as an archive for an indefinite period. Please visit the new location to get the latest Mid-Atlantic arts coverage.
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