Arts » Music

Savoyard Affair

by Philip Campbell
Sunday Feb 11, 2018

Lamplighters Music Theatre entered the 2018 side of their 65th season last weekend with an exuberant production of Gilbert & Sullivan's "The Gondoliers, or, The King of Barataria" at Yerba Buena Center for the Arts. The San Francisco-based company is a Northern California tradition that happily survives, relying on a corps of professionals and a constantly refreshed ensemble of new talent. Standards are kept high, and respect for the wonderfully topsy-turvy world of G&S is supreme.

Even when plots are contrived and improbable (and with W.S. Gilbert, that's usually the case), the Lamplighters cut to the core with expert comic instinct and musicianship. With "The Gondoliers," these virtues are especially important. One of those "mix-ups at birth" stories that kept audiences roaring with laughter at London's Savoy in 1889, the scenario brings two infant boys from fictional Barataria to Venice, where the grownup lads, raised to become gondoliers, pick their brides in a sort of "blind-man's bluff." In typical G&S fashion, both of the chosen sopranos are clever, willful and pretty.

The quartet of lovers soon learns one of the boys was whisked away in infancy to protect him until his eventual assumption of the throne of Barataria. His parents also married him to the baby daughter of the Duke and Duchess of Plaza-Toro before the carrying-off to Italy.

On top of that, only their ancient nursemaid can identify which of the youths is the actual royal heir! The lately impoverished Duke and Duchess arrive in Venice with Casilda, their daughter (the bride), to claim kinship because the throne has finally been cleared by an insurrection.

It goes on; believe me, it goes on, until the sublimely silly deus ex machina of the finale. But who really cares if the story is believable? The jokes and patter songs are plentiful, and Arthur Sullivan supplied some of his sunniest melodies for the ballads and rousing choruses.

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