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John Van der Kiste

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Category: 

Essays

Publisher:  Sutton ISBN-10:  0750922656 Type: 
Pages: 

150

Copyright:  Oct 1 2000
Non-Fiction

A selection of Sir W.S. Gilbert's Christmas articles and stories on pantomime and his comic verse; carols set to music by Sir Arthur Sullivan; short stories, poems and extracts from memoirs by their contemporaries; plus an introduction by the compiler on the background of the Savoy Operas and their place as part of the festive tradition. Illustrated throughout with contemporary pictures, portraits and Gilbert's drawings.

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Sir W.S. Gilbert and Sir Arthur Sullivan dominated English culture for much of the Victorian age, the former as journalist, dramatist and comic poet, the latter as composer of everything from symphonies and oratorios to songs, cantatas and ballet suites. Between them they wrote some of the most-loved light operas of all time, characterised by Gilbert's own brand of topsy-turvydom.

This anthology includes a selection from their Christmas creations: Gilbert's articles and stories on the pantomime, and some of his festive 'Bab Ballads'; plus several carols and seasonal songs which Sullivan set to music. Extracts from their first collaboration, the 'lost opera' 'Thespis', written specifically as an entertainment for the Christmas season of 1871, are also featured.

Writings from some of their contemporaries and associates are here too, among them George & Weedon Grossmith's tale of Mr Pooter and family from 'Diary of a Nobody'; Princess Marie of Edinburgh's recollections of childhood Christmases at Eastwell Park; excerpts from 'Punch'; and Saki's uproarious efforts to enliven a tedious Christmas evening. An introduction on the collaborators' place in the Christmas tradition is included, as are portraits, contemporary memorabilia, cards and Gilbert's idiosyncratic drawings.


Excerpt

"It was a dull Christmas night that Ted Maxwell and I were spending, boxed up in our chambers on a top-floor of Garden Court, Temple. Not but that we had plenty of friends in London whose merriment was tempered by the fact that circumstances beyond our control required that we should spend the afternoon and evening in chamber solitude. But that Grand Fairy Christmas Extravaganza, the One-Eyed Calendars, Sons of Kings; or, Zobeide and the Three Great Black Dogs, was due on the boards of a minor metropolitan theatre by ten o'clock on the following night, and there were two scenes still unfinished, and three or four songs still unwritten."

- W.S. Gilbert, 'Maxwell and I', 1866



Professional Reviews

Topsy-turvy world
'Gilbert & Sullivan's Christmas' reveals that the two creators of the topsy-turvy world of their comic operas has close associations with Christmas. This anthology of some of their seasonal writings also includes contributions from, for example, Tennyson, Trollope, and "Punch". From Gilbert and Sullivan themselves, there is an extract from their first collaboration (their sole purpose-written Christmas entertainment), Gilbert's comments on pantomime, two of the "Bab Ballads", and poems which Sullivan set to music - the core of a collection which is by no means restricted as the title might suggest. - Keswick Reminder, 24 Nov 2000


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