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Gilbert and Sullivan: H.M.S. Pinafore and The Mikado . The D'Oyly Carte Opera Company, Isidore Godfrey, conductor. Great Operetta Recordings: Naxos 8.110175 ($6.99) and 8.110176/77 ($13.99).
When I was in seventh grade I launched my performing career as Mabel in The Pirates of Penzance , the culmination of my years of G&S passion (Other G&S heroines threatened my gpa throughout my college years.) My enthusiasm-which included memorizing every lyric and gesture-had been nurtured by Britain's annual post-WWII export to New York of its two premier performing arts companies, the Sadlers Wells Ballet and the D'Oyly Carte Opera Company.
Both of these organizations were steeped in tradition: Sadlers Wells (which became the Royal Ballet) in Tchaikovsky story ballets with choreography by Petipa; and D'Oyly Carte in maintaining to the letter the original late nineteenth century productions under the direction of the librettist and composer.
During the late 40s and early 50s, London Records came out with the entire G&S corpus (except Utopia Limited and The Grand Duke, which D'Oyly Carte never revived). I wore the vinyl down to the point where it sounded like a scrambled Voice of America broadcast to the Soviet Union. But now Naxos has come out with pristine re-masterings of two of the most popular G&S operettas from this series.
On these wonderful recordings you can hear the timid patter of Martyn Green's Ko-ko, the tubercular laugh of Darrell Fancourt as the Mikado, the deliberately sentimental delivery of lovers Muriel Harding and Leonard Osborn and the full-bodied contralto of Ella Halman as maternal Buttercup and strident Katisha.
I understand, however, that the Pinafore and Mikado is all Naxos is planning to reissue at the moment. So I'm appealing to all Savoyards to buy these recordings and drown Naxos in letters demanding the entire set.