Sunday, January 09, 2011

Sunday Classics: "The Sorcerer": "Everyone's engaged to So-and-so"


There's no orchestra, so you won't hear -- among other things -- the important flute solo, and you don't get comfortable English from (presumably Brazilian) 24-year-old baritone Jorge Trabanco, not to mention any suggestion of the advancing age that's the subject of these reflections by the vicar in Act I of The Sorcerer, but you will get an attractive, sensitively considered performance of Dr. Daly's extraordinary recitative ("The air is charged with amatory numbers") and fine ballad ("Time was when love and I were well acquainted"). And then after the texts, you'll find an audio-only performance that plugs some of the gaps.
No. 3, Act I, Recitative and Ballad, Dr. Daly, "The air is charged with amatory numbers" . . . "Time was when love and I were well acquainted"

The air is charged with amatory numbers—
soft madrigals, and dreamy lovers' lays.
Peace, peace, old heart! Why waken from its slumbers
the aching memory of the old, old days?

Time was when Love and I were well acquainted.
Time was when we walked ever hand in hand.
A saintly youth, with worldly thought untainted,
none better-loved than I in all the land!
Time was, when maidens of the noblest station,
forsaking even military men,
would gaze upon me, rapt in adoration--
Ah me, I was a fair young curate then!

Had I a headache? Sighed the maids assembled.
Had I a cold? Welled forth the silent tear.
Did I look pale? Then half a parish trembled;
and when I coughed all thought the end was near!
I had no care--no jealous doubts hung o'er me--
for I was loved beyond all other men.
Fled gilded dukes and belted earls before me.
Ah me, I was a pale young curate them!
Kenneth Sandford (b), Dr. Daly; D'Oyly Carte Opera Orchestra. From The Last Night of the D'Oyly Carte Opera Company, recorded live, Feb. 27, 1982

by Ken

There are two things to note about the above recording of Dr. Daly's recitative and ballad by Kenneth Sandford, one of my favorite G&S singers, from the Last Night of the D'Oyly Carte Opera Company recording: first, that he was 57 at the time, and so possibly of an even more aging-vicar-esque state than one might wish, and second, that throughout the performance, given in formal attire, he was, I gather, riding a bicycle.

As I explained in Friday night's preview, what got me to thinking about, and wanting to let you hear and to say something about, Gilbert and Sullivan's The Sorcerer was the vicar Dr. Daly's two haunting solos -- one before the Sorcerer's spell is cast over the villagers, in Act I (as we saw and heard in last night's preview), the other after, in Act II. And in the Act I scene, lovely as the ballad is is, it's the preceding recitative that seems to me to etch the character and his melancholy stage of life so indelibly.

Our modest agenda, then, is to hear the effect the Sorcerer's philtre has on the vicar, and to an extent on some of the other villagers. But first, of course, we have to have our daily performance of the Overture to The Sorcerer. Friday night we heard both of long-time D'Oyly Carte Opera Company music director Isidore Godfrey's recordings, from the 1953 and 1966 Decca recordings of the complete operetta, and last night we heard a recording by composer-conductor Alexander Faris. Today our conductor is Sir Malcolm Sargent, from the period of his late-life return to G&S, which had once been the center of his professional activities, when he served as music director of the D'Oyly Carte Opera Company.

GILBERT AND SULLIVAN: The Sorcerer: Overture

Pro Arte Orchestra, Sir Malcolm Sargent, cond. EMI, recorded 1961

Now we need to establish what exactly this philtre is that we saw the Sorcerer brew last night. To begin with, it's all part of a crackpot scheme by our hero, young Alexis Pointdextre, the son of the baronet Sir Marmaduke Pointdextre, who in Act I sings to his lovely fiancé Aline, daughter of Lady Sangazure: "Give me the love that loves for love alone-- I love that love--I love it only!" And in support of what Aline describes as "noble principles," Alexis . . . well, let him explain:
ALEXIS: I am going to take a desperate step in support of them. Have you ever heard of the firm of J. W. Wells & Co., the old-established Family Sorcerers in St. Mary Axe?
ALINE: I have seen their advertisement.
ALEXIS: They have invented a philtre, which, if report may be believed, is simply infallible. I intend to distribute it through the village, and within half-an-hour of my doing so there will not be an adult in the place who will not have learnt the secret of pure and lasting happiness. What do you say to that?
ALINE: Well, dear, of course a filter is a very useful thing in a house; but still I don't quite see that it is the sort of thing that places its possessor on the very pinnacle of earthly joy.
ALEXIS: Aline, you misunderstand me. I didn't say a filter -- I said a philtre.
ALINE [alarmed]: You don't mean a love-potion?
ALEXIS On the contrary -- I do mean a love potion.
ALINE: Oh, Alexis! I don't think it would be right. I don't indeed. And then -- a real magician! Oh, it would be downright wicked.
ALEXIS: Aline, is it, or is it not, a laudable object to steep the whole village up to its lips in love, and to couple them in matrimony without distinction of age, rank, or fortune?
ALINE: Unquestionably, but --
ALEXIS: Then unpleasant as it must be to have recourse to supernatural aid, I must nevertheless pocket my aversion, in deference to the great and good end I have in view.

If you'd like to see a bit of the Act II Awakening Scene, there's a clip from Mike Leigh's G&S film Topsy-Turvy which isn't embeddable but can be seen here.



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At 3:25 PM, Anonymous Robert Dagg Murphy said...

What beautiful music. Thanks again Ken.


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