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HIS EXCELLENCY

 

 

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ST DAVID’S PLAYERS

Gilbert and Sullivan Society · Exeter · Devon

A musical legend written by W S Gilbert

Composed by Frank Osmond-Carr

New score by Terry Hawes

A Comic Opera in Two Acts

First produced at the Lyric Theatre, London on 27th October 1894

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      The libretto of His Excellency on the
    Gilbert and Sullivan Archive

     

      Scanned copy of the 1st American Edition of the libretto

     

      Scanned copy of the Vocal Score

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    1982  —  Southgate Opera  —  New score by Terry Hawes

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    It is forgotten nowadays that both Gilbert and Sullivan had careers apart from their partnership together. Gilbert was probably the foremost dramatist of his day, whilst Sullivan was without a doubt Britain’s foremost composer. Sadly, much of their work either alone or with other partners is rarely performed - this being more so in Gilbert’s case, although his comedy Engaged (1877) has received a number of very welcome professional revivals in recent years.

    1894 saw the production of possibly his most accomplished libretto. Helen D’Oyly Carte and indeed Gilbert himself would admit that, had Sullivan composed the score, this would have been another Mikado.

    The work was His Excellency and unlike most of the Savoy series, here was a libretto that did not rely on any form of satire whatsoever. The piece tells the story of the Governor of the Danish town of Elsinor who is addicted to playing practical jokes. His soldiers are drilled as ballet girls, his physician and sculptor are both under the impression that they have been commissioned by the king, and the local land-owner, Dame Hecla Courtlandt, is under the impression that she is engaged to be married to the Governor himself.

    With a score by up and coming composer of musical comedies, Dr Frank Osmond-Carr, His Excellency opened at the Lyric Theatre in October 1894 where it ran for an acceptable if unexceptionable 161 performances. That it didn’t run for much longer was blamed fairly and squarely on Carr’s score which relied greatly on 6/8 rhythms. However, the piece did play in New York and also, surprisingly, at the Carltheater in Vienna twice (1895 and 1897).

    His Excellency is a highly enjoyable piece and certainly well worthy of revival. Carr’s orchestration seems to have been long mislaid, although midi files available at Colin Johnson’s website prove Carr’s score to be quite delightful.

    The current recording uses a new score composed (in the style of Sullivan) by Terry Hawes and first performed at Southgate (London) in the 1960’s.

    In the absence of the original, this is an excellent substitute. Terry Hawes does not set all of the lyrics supplied by W S Gilbert, notably an essay concerning National Anthems and the infamous ‘Song of the Bee’, and in some cases he does alter lyrics (nothing more than Sullivan would have done), but the result is quite charming and one has to hope that amateur companies will take note and produce this delightful work.

      Hear an excerpt from this recording - ‘The ballet of the Hussars’.

    The CD (AMP001) is available only direct from the website hisexcellency.co.uk