By Edward Kliszus

Gilbert and Sullivan reigned supreme in MasterVoices presents Iolanthe (1882). Moreover, they stormed the Carnegie Hall stage with an electric atmosphere and exuberant panache. Presented indeed to tonight’s full house was an exquisitely entertaining and sublime musical extravagance with visual treats and literary merriment. Viewers were unquestionably 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.

Absurdity, Charm, and Satire

Iolanthe was an excellent choice for a particularly comedic, whimsical production. In this case, the plot circles around a group of mythical fairies banished from the Fairyland realm for marrying humans, thus violating Fairy law. One fairy on this occasion, 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. Then, the Lord Chancellor and two wealthy Earls also love Phyllis and are determined to stop the marriage between Strephon and Phyllis. Hence, the stage was set for a delightful, inventive romp through a fantastical world of absurdity, charm, and satire.

MasterVoices presents Iolanthe

The genius of Gilbert and Sullivan as they peruse the score of Iolanthe in the article MasterVoices presents Iolanthe published in OpeningNight.Online. Digital art by Edward Kliszus

The genius of Gilbert and Sullivan as they peruse the score of Iolanthe. Digital art by Edward Kliszus

While Iolanthe contains 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 portrayed captivating melodies, clever harmonies, and elaborate choral arrangements. Consequently, the music was unforgettable and engaging, ranging from comic patter songs to heartfelt ballads.

Dreamlike Atmosphere

Ted Sperling’s frequent use of a chorus of mythical fairies adorned with enchanted, glowing headpieces supported the ethereal, magical quality of the music. Hence, the creation of a dreamlike atmosphere that contrasts with the mortal characters’ more boisterous music.

Many magical moments occurred, including the Nightmare Song with patter and linguistic dexterity performed by the Lord Chancellor (David Garrison). Take the case of multiple appearances by the expressive Dancing Fairy (Tiler Peck), which portrayed her grace, athleticism, and artistry. The soaring, beautifully poignant love duet, None Shall Part Us, as performed by Strephon (Schyler Vargas) and Phyllis (Ashley Fabian), was undeniably romantic and passionate while aptly conveying the music’s depth and intensity. 

Fabulous and Magnificent

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 then 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, in fact, used microphones, and words to the music appeared on a large screen above the stage. Then, when some idiomatic terms materialized, comical and informative footnotes appeared.

Cover Artwork of Iolanthe piano transcriptions by Ernst Perabo as posted in MasterVoices Presents Iolanthe published in OpeningNight.Online - Original. Public Domain

Cover Artwork of Iolanthe piano transcriptions by Ernst Perabo – Original. Public Domain

Chuckles, Cheers, and other Affirmations

This production portrayed the essence of excellent artistry coupled with modern technological tools. Audience members were certainly and masterfully delivered full access to every quip, idiom, and reference intended by Gilbert and Sullivan. Moreover, during the entire production, laughs, chuckles, cheers, and other affirmations continued. Applause indeed occurred frequently, and the denouement received an extended standing ovation and multiple bows. Accordingly, the soloists, dancer, orchestra, costumes, choreography, and lighting were superb, while Sperling’s conducting was masterful, precise, effective, and expressive.

Bravo to the cast and crew of MasterVoices! Be sure to travel to 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 of MasterVoices presents Iolanthe

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
PRIVATE WILLIS (of the Grenadier Guards), Phillip Boykin
CELIA, Nicole Eve Goldstein
LEILA, Kaitlyn LeBaron
FLETA, Emy Zener

Runtime was about 2.5 hours with intermission.

Carnegie Hall

Stern Auditorium/Perelman Stage
881 Seventh Avenue
New York, NY 10019

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More about the “Fairies” and “Lords” of Iolanthe.

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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.