Both could and did exist without the other, but together they created something more entirely wonderful than they ever did alone. Sir Arthur Sullivan and W.S. Gilbert brought operetta to a new height of musicality, beauty, and goofiness. Melody and lyric conveyed innocent and often true love, romantic, maternal, and fraternal. Wit reigned supreme and inspired generations of poets and writers.
Victorian propriety, piety, and society was skewered, but rendered with a familiar and clear-sighted affection. Heads ever since have rung with melodies, fundamental and ethereal. When that sweet and innocent world is wanted, patter song, duet, trio, quartet, and full chorus sings out from stages, at schools and at more exalted venues.
A British Tar
I stumbled into this colorful world early. Our third grade class staged HMS Pinafore. I attended a school for boys and, as it was thoroughly Shakespearean and still rooted in Victorian values, one of us had to play Buttercup. I avoided that trauma by being too tall and having had a beard since birth. But I loved the tunes and was drawn into the drama that ensued and was set free by the truth being revealed in the last act.
I Shipped D’ye See
Within these operettas are innumerable wonderful tunes and endless phrases that take root in my subconscious.
I’ve got a little list. We sail the ocean blue and our saucy ship’s a beauty, and it is, it is a glorious thing to be a Pirate King! When everyone is somebody, then no one’s anybody, what, never? No, never! What never? Well, hardly ever! Never mind the why and wherefore, when a felon’s not engaged in his employment, let the punishment fit the crime, for he’s gone and married Yum Yum,and it’s love that makes the world go round.
These two made that world more like the one they hoped for than the one they found themselves in and set it to music, preserving the moment for all of us to sing along with, whether in or out of tune.
For He Is An Englishman