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Gilbert and Sullivan Society · Exeter · Devon

Written by Arthur Wing Pinero and Joseph Comyns-Carr

Composed by Arthur Sullivan

Revised by David Eden and Martin Yates (1996)

An Original Romantic Musical Drama in Three Acts

First produced at the Savoy Theatre, London on 28th May 1898


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    1927  —  Barclays Bank Operatic Society

    1983  —  Prince Consort, Edinburgh Concert version

    1996  —  Generally G & S, Retford

    1998  —  Gilbert & Sullivan Opera Victoria, Melbourne

    2009  —  Valley Light Opera Concert version with Orchestra


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    Libretto of The Beauty Stone in the revised version by David Eden and Martin Yates..This version is copyright and


    The Chappell edition of the vocal score of The Beauty Stone:-


      Eratta slip


      Act 1 Scene 1


      Act 1 Scene 2


      Act 2


      Act 3


    Numbers not included in the published vocal score. Arranged from the autograph manuscript score by Martin Yates.


      Number 2a (intro)


      Number 2a (full number)


      Number 5a


      Number 5b


      Number 7a


      Number 10a


      Number 13a


      Number 22a


      Number 23a




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    Reviews currently included here have been posted by contributor, Ian Bond, and are his personal views, and these may not necessarily represent the views of St David’s Players

    The Beauty Stone represented a complete departure for the Savoy Theatre in 1898. It was a departure that came as a shock to the regular Savoy audience and sadly the piece faltered at just 50 performances. There is no doubt that the blame for this failure could be laid at the doorstep of the librettists, although more so at that of Arthur Wing Pinero.

    Pinero, famous for such plays as Trelawney of the Wells,
    The Magistrate and Dandy Dick, had never written for the
    lyric stage and so, although The Beauty Stone was extremely
    well constructed with a very strong storyline, Pinero treated it
    as another play, giving no space for music or lyrics.

    Joseph Comyns Carr, the lyricist, likewise had no experience of writing for the lyric stage and consequently provided poetry (rather than lyrics) that proved more than unusually difficult for Sullivan to set. Neither Pinero nor Carr seemed in any way able to understand the need to prune or alter their work and pleas from Sullivan and from both Helen and Richard D’Oyly Carte to revise their work fell on deaf ears. When the piece eventually opened in May 1898 with a running time of 4 hours, Pinero and Carr realised their mistake and set about an immediate revision. However, the damage was done and the revised text arrived too late.

    Consequently The Beauty Stone has suffered considerable neglect over the years with just a handful of enterprising amateur performances. 1996 however, saw the revival by Generally G & S, an amateur society based in Retford, Nottinghamshire. For this revival David Eden (the Chairman of the Sir Arthur Sullivan Society) revised the libretto by entirely ditching Pinero’s dialogue whilst retaining his strong storyline. Eden than linked the musical numbers with short passages of rhyming couplet turning what had been a Romantic Musical Drama into an Operatic Miracle Play. Thus, with the music at last allowed to speak in it’s own right, Sullivan’s magnificent score was revealed in it’s full glory.

    There has only ever been one recording of The Beauty Stone commercially available. This was made by Pearl in 1984 at a series of concert performances given in Edinburgh by David Lyle and the Prince Consort with members of the Edinburgh Gilbert and Sullivan Society.

    As with all the Pearl/Prince Consort recordings there are two main drawbacks. Firstly, a tendency towards miscasting. In this case as with other recordings in this series it is Richard Bourjo who is given the wrong role. He is cast as The Devil and, although under most operatic circumstances his strong, rich bass-baritone voice could be considered ideal for this character, in this case it is wrong. Sullivan wrote the Devil’s music for Walter Passmore, successor at the Savoy to George Grossmith, and therefore a patter baritone. Mr Bourjo, whilst singing beautifully throughout, does lend too much of a dark colour to the pieces in which he is involved - this is particularly noticeable in his duet with Crazy Jacqueline which drags as he just has not the lightness of voice to keep up.

    The second drawback is one of pace - there is far too much hanging back when there should be urgency. A prime example is Saida’s ‘What Laggard Steed’ which just doesn’t convey the character’s desperate impatience for the return of her lord and master. That David Lyle can draw a well paced performance from these forces is evidenced by the 1986 recording of The Chieftain, and again in 2000 with Haddon Hall. Maybe it is the atmosphere of the concert hall as opposed to the theatre, but urgency and excitement are intermittent in this performance.

    All this said, there is much to enjoy in here, and the piece grows on one with repeated listening. Alan Borthwick is as dependable as ever as Lord Philip. Ivor Klayman and Margaret Leask are admirable as Simon Limal the weaver and Joan, his wife, their duet ‘I would see a maid’ being a very definite highlight. Their daughter, Laine, sung by Mary Timmons is quite charming, whilst Jane Borthwick brings the tomboy Crazy Jacqueline to life.

      To hear the duet ‘I would see a maid’

    In the absence of a more recent recording,
    I certainly would not be without this. I would say that the Sounds on CD transfer is marginally superior -
    Sounds On CD VGS 206. Domestic market - Pearl GEMS 0192.