There are some in the opera world that look down their noses at Gilbert and Sullivan but I certainly am not one of them. I am currently in Fresno, California conducting The Pirates of Penzance. It has been many years since I have conducted G&S and in fact, 17 years since I have conducted this operetta in particular. Thus far, we are in fact having a blast in rehearsals. G&S shows require a great deal of energy in order for the work to be successful. Perhaps one of the main reasons why some people are not fans is that they have seen too many amateur productions. In fact, in order to perform G&S properly, it takes considerable skill. The singers must be quality singers who are fine actors with an excellent sense of comedic timing. Of course, some roles also require precision with lightning fast patter and diction such as the Major-General in this piece. In addition to their music skills, the performers must also be good dancers, and possess skills in delivering a considerable amount of spoken dialogue, bringing the characters to life and making the somewhat dated jokes work for today’s audiences. If done properly, these works can be hilarious.
The demands on the chorus are also immense. They have a great deal of music to learn, they must memorize a great deal of words and have excellent diction in order for the words to be understood. Plus, they must be able to dance and remember a considerable amount of choreography. They too must be good actors as they participate in several scenes including dialogue and their timing must be precise in order for the jokes to work.
The cast here is very good with all of the above skills. The chorus is working extremely hard and are doing a wonderful job. I am impressed with their dedication. The Stage Director can really make or break a show like this. Bill Fabris who is directing the show in Fresno is an excellent director for G&S. He knows the show inside and out and his extensive experience as a dancer means he does not have to delegate the dancing to a choreographer, This really speeds up the process as he knows exactly what he wants and can demonstrate exactly how he wants it done. Bravo Bill!
Also, a special thank you to the friends of Fresno Grand Opera who everyday bring all sorts of treats to rehearsals for the performers including a variety of soup, sandwiches and goodies. Now that’s dedication!