Reprinted from yesterday's late editions.
You have to remember, first, that W. S. Gilbert was a Victorian gentleman and, as such, prey to all the prejudice and bigotry of his kind.
Second, of course, was that he was the "Saturday Night Live" of his day.
Few of the Gilbert and Sullivan operas convey this contradiction better than "Princess Ida," the only (happily) Gilbert venture into blank verse which he himself called "a respectful operatic perversion" of Alfred Lord Tennyson's interminable narrative poem. "The Princess."
Fortunately there's rather less respect than perversion, and it's something of a mystery that this extraordinarily musical and amusing opera doesn't draw the audiences in this country that it ought.
Of course Gilbert shared his era's masculine horror at the thought of emancipated (or educated) women, and a certain lack of raised consciousness is apparent in large portions of dialogue and especially in the denouement when Princess Ida exchanges militant feminism for the "sweet society" of Prince Hilarion.
But the production is joyfull and colorful and the best sung of all the operas in the current tour at the Kennedy Center.
Monday was something of a premiere - no one can remember the last time the D'Oyly Carte Opera Company did "Ida" in Washington, certainly not within the last quarter of a century. And for added drama, unrehearsed understudy Richard Brabrooke had to step in as Hilarion to replace a suddenly (but not seriously) taken-ill Meston Reid.
Under the circumstances his performance in one of the most taxing tenor roles in the Gilbert and Sullivan repertoire was admirable. In fact, everybody sang well Monday night - Geoffrey Shovelton and John Ayldon, John Reed and Kenneth Sandford as well as Barbara Lilley and Patricia Leonard. Most of the time even the chorus could be understood.
A not-to-be-missed performance.