Topsy-Turvy World

in Daily Programme

by Elrik Merlin on Friday, 27 June, 2008

Today’s programme in our week celebrating Second Life’s Fifth Birthday by way of the music of our home region of Caledon continues with a delightful day of confections from librettist W S Gilbert and noted Victorian composer Sir Arthur Sullivan – the famous collaboration of Gilbert & Sullivan.

The two were brought together by Richard D’Oyly Carte and he continually encouraged them, building the Savoy Theatre in 1881 and founding the now-famous D’Oyly Carte Opera Company to perform the works, which became known as the Savoy Operas.

The term “Topsy-Turvy”, which was taken by Mike Leigh as the title for his 1999 film of Gilbert & Sullivan’s relationship during the writing and performance of The Mikado in 1884–5, one of their most famous operettas, relates to the inverted worlds of fancy that Gilbert wrought for these operas, where peers and fairies co-exist, pirates turn out to be nobles, and gondoliers become kings.

The operettas are regarded by some as lightweight – and of course they are one thread in the web of popular music of the late 19th century – but the music of Sullivan is superb, mixing humour and emotion in equal measure; and the writing intricate, ingenious and at the time topical and often quite politically satirical in tone. Indeed, since the operettas came out of copyright, many writers have tweaked the wording of various popular extracts to reference current events. Gilbert often took the opportunity to lampoon the aristocracy, political parties and other worthies.

Some of the songs, like The Lord Chancellor’s Nightmare Song and A Modern Major General have become stand-alone favourites – the former being covered by Todd Rundgren of all people (and brilliantly, with a multiplicity of hilarious sound effects) for example.

A day of Topsy-Turvy fun is guaranteed for all, with top-notch performances of many of the operettas and their familiar Overtures. Today’s programme is presented by Edwina Heron.

Gilbert & Sullivan is an ideal accompaniment to the steampunk/Victorian world of the Independent State of Caledon. Tune in as you explore the Caledon SL5B exhibit at, simply by pressing Play on your embedded music player. The programme can also be heard by tuning in directly to our Main Stream,

• For more on Gilbert & Sullivan, visit the Gilbert & Sullivan Archive.


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