By Ed Klisus
Gilbert and Sullivan’s Iolanthe (1882) presented by MasterVoices, stormed the Carnegie Hall stage with an electric atmosphere and exuberant panache. Presented to tonight’s full house were an exquisitely entertaining and sublime musical extravagance, visual treat, and literary merriment. Viewers were delightfully immersed in a witty, satirical interpretation of Victorian society and politics, along with Gilbert’s libretto bursting with clever banter, quips, and droll irony.
Iolanthe was an excellent choice for a particularly comedic, whimsical production. The plot circles around a group of mythical fairies banished from the Fairyland realm for marrying humans, thus violating Fairy law. One fairy, Iolanthe, was pardoned by the Fairy Queen after serving a 25-year sentence for marrying a mortal. Iolanth’s son Strephon is half-fairy, half-human, and in love with Phyllis, a ward of the Chancery. The Lord Chancellor and two wealthy Earls also love Phyllis and are determined to stop the marriage between Strephon and Phyllis. The stage was set for a delightful, inventive romp through a fantastical world of absurdity, charm, and satire.
While Iolanthe possesses the expected Gilbert and Sullivan musical delights and wit, it also expresses a bit of late Victorian England’s social and political climate with its growing discontent with the House of Lords obfuscating reform and progress.
Performed by an orchestra, large chorus, vocal soloists, and ballet artist, Sullivan’s music was replete with captivating melodies, adroit harmonies, and elaborate choral arrangements. As performed, the music was unforgettable and engaging, ranging from comic patter songs to heartfelt ballads.
Ted Sperling’s frequent use of a chorus of mythical fairies adorned with enchanted, glowing headpieces supported the ethereal, magical quality of the music, creating a dreamlike atmosphere contrasting with the more boisterous music of the mortal characters.
There were many magical moments, including the Nightmare Song of patter and linguistic dexterity performed by the Lord Chancellor (David Garrison). Multiple appearances by the expressive Dancing Fairy (Tiler Peck) portrayed her grace, athleticism, and artistry. The soaring, beautifully poignant love duet, None Shall Part Us, performed by Strephon (Schyler Vargas) and Phyllis (Ashley Fabian), was romantic, passionate, and conveyed well the depth and intensity of the music. The entrance of the Peers singing Loudly Let the Trumpet Bray was fabulous and magnificent. The hilarious, naughty, and memorable If You Go In You’re Sure to Win, was sung by the Lord Chancellor (David Garrison), the Earl of Mountararat (Santino Fontana), Earl Tolloller (Jason Danieley), Private Willis (Phillip Boykin) and Peers of the Realm (ensemble).
Every detail of MasterVoices’s Iolanthe was expertly crafted and choreographed by conductor/director Ted Sperling and his creative team. The world-class vocal soloists used microphones, and words to the music appeared on a large screen above the stage. When some idiomatic terms materialized, comical and informative footnotes were included.
This production portrayed the essence of superlative artistry coupled with modern technological tools. Audience members were masterfully delivered full access to every quip, idiom, and reference intended by Gilbert and Sullivan. During the production, laughs, chuckles, cheers, and other affirmations continued. Applause occurred frequently, and the denouement was acknowledged through an extended standing ovation and multiple bows. The soloists, dancer, orchestra, costumes, choreography, and lighting were superb. Sperling’s conducting was masterful, precise, effective, and expressive.
Bravo to the cast and crew of MasterVoices! Be sure to travel to www.MasterVoices.org and subscribe for news on upcoming events.
MasterVoices presents Iolanthe (or the Peer and the Peri)
Music by Arthur S. Sullivan – Lyrics and Libretto by W.S. Gilbert Conducted and Directed by Ted Sperling Choreographer and Associate Director, Andrew Palermo Costume design by Tracy Christensen Lighting design by Scott Lehrer
CAST OF CHARACTERS
THE LORD CHANCELLOR, David Garrison THE QUEEN OF THE FAIRIES, Christine Ebersole IOLANTHE (a Fairy—Strephon’s mother), Shereen Ahmed STREPHON (An Arcadian Shepherd), Schyler Vargas PHYLLIS (an Arcadian Shepherdess and Ward of Chancery), Ashley Fabian GEORGE, THE EARL OF MOUNTARARAT, Santino Fontana THOMAS, THE EARL TOLLOLLER, Jason Danieley PRIVATE WILLIS (of the Grenadier Guards), Phillip Boykin CELIA, Nicole Eve Goldstein LEILA, Kaitlyn LeBaron FLETA, Emy Zener DANCING FAIRY, Tiler Peck
Runtime was about 2.5 hours with intermission.
Stern Auditorium/Perelman Stage 881 Seventh Avenue New York, NY 10019
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Readers may also enjoy MasterVoices presents Carmen, Faith by MasterVoices, MasterVoices Presents a Concert of Jewish Sacred Music at Central Synagogue, and Love by MasterVoices.