The ticket of Gilbert and Sullivan was far more popular Sunday night at the Natural History Building than Reagan-Bush or Mondale-Ferraro. Despite the competition from the presidential "debates," Baird Auditorium was filled to capacity with comic opera lovers who came to hear some of the principal members of the legendary but now extinct D'Oyly Carte Opera Company from London perform excerpts from the duo's works.
The "Savoyards" spokesman, Geoffrey Shovelton, promised the enthusiastic listeners that "everyone will hear two or three of their favorites." The troupe, named after the Savoy Theatre (where Gilbert and Sullivan's operas premiered), succeeded admirably in its goal. Shovelton was joined by a quartet of actor-singers, and accompanied by former conductor David Mackie on piano.
Scenes of spoken dialogue alternated with the famous "patter songs" from "Iolanthe," "Yeoman of the Guard," "The Mikado" and other masterpieces. Shovelton announced the program from the stage, describing the synopsis of each opera and sharing amusing anecdotes from D'Oyly Carte's distinguished history. The company gave its final performance two years ago.
The tried-and-true vignettes, however, lacked spontaneity at times, obvious victims of over-rehearsal and over-familiarity with the script and score. The highlights far outnumbered the minor glitches, particularly during the spirited second half. Alistair Donkin's rubber limbs and face, and perfected "motor-mouth" phrasing; Kenneth Sandford's rich, resonant baritone and expert comic timing; mezzo-soprano Lorraine Daniels' polished vocal pyrotechnics; soprano Vivian Tierney's emotional range; and Shovelton's good humor were abundantly showcased.
The audience, which gave the troupe a standing ovation, participated in singing the choruses of the "Major General's Song" from "The Pirates of Penzance" and guffawed over the broad satire of "Patience."