Broude Brothers “Iolanthe” Published

Iolanthe; or, The Peer and the Peri

Music Edited by Gerald Hendrie
Introduction by Gerald Hendrie, Dinah Barsham, and Helga J. Perry
New York: Broude Trust, 2017
3 Volumes (331, 194, 217 pages)

This new edition of Iolanthe continues the Broude series that began with Trial by Jury in 1994 and H.M.S. Pinafore in 2003. Like the earlier sets, it will eventually include a companion vocal score and band parts; only the full score is available now. The principal editor is Gerald Hendrie, an organ scholar and composer who has previously edited scores of Handel’s church music and the 17th-century English musician, Orlando Gibbons.

Disclosure: I am credited as a “House Editor,” a role that entailed research, fact-checking, and proofreading, without compensation. The substantive decisions were entirely Dr. Hendrie’s, with whom I had no direct contact. Any such edition must entail hundreds of judgments, and it is obviously not possible that I would agree with all of them. Nevertheless, as I am partially responsible for the edition, even if in a small way, it would be inappropriate for me to critique it. Consider this an overview.

The edition is in three volumes, with each act in a separate volume, and the commentary in a third. The need for so many pages is the result of Broude’s extremely roomy musical layout and a critical apparatus unparalleled among G&S editions for its thoroughness and level of detail. Oxford University Press, by comparison, squeezed its editions of Ruddigore and Yeomen into one volume apiece.

The edition publishes, for the first time, the full military band parts that Sullivan wrote in Act I. The band appears in the March of the Peers, the peers’ first exit, and the finale.

As Sullivan conceived it, the band consisted of twelve players: 4 cornets, 2 horns, 3 trombones, euphonium, bombardon (precursor to the tuba), and side drum. For the convenience of productions that omit the band, the edition cues the extra parts into the orchestra where possible, but not all of these instruments have an orchestral counterpart. When the opera is played without the band—as it almost always is—a considerable amount of musical detail is lost.

It is unclear how long after the 1882 premiere the full band continued to be used. In a full score copy made in Scotland in the early 20th century, the band included only 3 cornets and no horns. Band parts in the D’Oyly Carte hire library, none of which appear to be the original ones, also include no horns, and offer options for 2, 3, or 4 cornets. These surviving parts do not entirely agree with each other, or with the autograph. In 2006, when David Cookson hired the military band parts for the Peak Opera production at the International G&S Festival in Buxton, the hire library sent 4 cornet parts and no horns—but the set he received was in such poor condition that it clearly could not have been used in many years, if ever: “barely legible, in some instances, with quite a few inconsistencies,” he recalled. (For the performance, he re-copied the parts and corrected as many of the errors as he could.)

On 25 November 1957, for the opera’s seventy-fifth anniversary, D’Oyly Carte performed Iolanthe on tour at Streatham Hill with Sullivan’s full complement of twelve military band musicians. (A report in the Gilbert & Sullivan News confirmed that all twelve were present.) I am not aware of any other occasion in living memory that the full band was used. I have never seen a performance with a stage band of any size, nor heard of one other than Peak Opera’s. The band can be heard on the 1960 D’Oyly Carte complete recording and on the 1963 Reader’s Digest “Best of Gilbert & Sullivan” set. If the Broude edition accomplishes nothing else, I hope it will enable more productions with the band as Sullivan wrote it.

Other bonus musical material includes a deleted recitative for Phyllis (replaced by “Nay, tempt me not”); a sixteen-measure cut from the Act I finale (“To them she gives her heart so rich”); the surviving first violin part for the “De Belville” song (previously published separately by the Sir Arthur Sullivan Society); and Strephon’s song, “Fold your Flapping Wings.”

I said I wouldn’t critique decisions with which I disagree, but I’ll make one exception: “Fold your Flapping Wings” appears as an appendix in Part C (the third volume), whereas the rest of Act II is in Part B. Conductors wishing to perform the song would need to carry all three volumes into the pit, and furthermore, would need to make a quick change after the end of the trio, “If you go in.” I’ve often complained about editions that relegate alternatives to the back of the book, elevating editorial formalism over convenience. Putting the song in a completely different volume makes it even worse.

The commentary volume begins with a 17-page introduction, including many details of the work’s genesis that I suspect will be new to most readers. I’ll mention just one of these. In the libretto, Gilbert expected Celia to sing the first solo in the opening number, and Leila the second. Sullivan reversed them, because May Fortescue, who was cast as Celia, did not have the high notes the initial solo required.

Gilbert objected: he wanted the audience to hear Miss Fortescue first. To remedy this, Sullivan composed a lower alternative line for Celia’s first solo. Modern vocal scores show the higher option in cue-size notes; but in fact, the higher line was Sullivan’s original, and clearly preferred, idea. There are other inconsistencies: in some numbers, the early vocal scores call for “Celia with 1st Sopranos” and “Leila with 2nd Sopranos.” In other numbers, they are the opposite.

The Broude edition remedies this by assigning the higher part to Leila, as that is how Sullivan conceived it. I might not have solved the problem that way, had it been up to me. Iolanthe was a collaboration, inevitably requiring compromise. Whether Sullivan liked it or not, he allowed Miss Fortescue to go first, and wrote the extra notes that allowed her to do so. Dr. Hendrie’s solution gives us what Sullivan may have wished, but not what he ultimately did. The opera is Gilbert’s too, and he got what he wanted. I certainly think modern productions ought to cast someone who can sing the higher notes that Sullivan intended; whether that singer is called “Celia” or “Leila” is less important.

An edition consisting of three cloth-bound volumes doesn’t come cheap. The cost is $375 plus $35 for shipping from Theodore Front Music Literature, which took over music distribution from Broude Brothers earlier this year. Whether the cost is justified is not for me to say, but it is consistent with top-line critical editions from other publishers. You can order it here. (I do not benefit financially from the sale.)

The Gilbert & Sullivan Edition continues, with Princess Ida expected to be the next opera published. It would be foolhardy of me to predict a date, given Broude’s long history of progress at a glacial pace. However, with Ronald Broude’s recent retirement from the music distribution business, he is free to focus on the critical editions that are truly his first love in music, so we may hope it will not be another fourteen-year wait.

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