I’m a fan of Gilbert & Sullivan operettas, having acquired that taste from my British Subject mother who quite happily, if not always tunefully, sang (in a manner of speaking) songs from HMS Pinafore, The Pirates of Penzance, The Mikado, and others. Which is to say, she couldn’t carry a tune in a bucket, and she loved the words and frequently razor sharp social commentary therein.
This year, I with GREAT anticipation attended a local production of The Gondoliers, Gilbert & Sullivan’s last great success, launched in 1889.
Many of the solo and chorus scores require a delicate balance between speed and diction. Too slow, you loose the zip. Too fast, it’s muddy, you can’t understand a word. Exquisite diction is essential.
One of the challenges with amateur productions of Gilbert & Sullivan is that they get excited and roll through things too fast, thinking that speed will make up for everything else. Alas, muddy.
For example, in Act One, there’s a wonderful little piece called “Dance a Cachucha Fandango Bolero.” (All three are Spanish dances.)
(If you’d like to hear for yourself, read on. If you’re in a hurry, skip to “By the time….,” just below.)
Listen first “without the words” to see if you can grasp any of it, then listen “with the words,” it’s much better.
Without the Words: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=A1gAFBUfjyk
With the words: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6Dvx654G7kA
By the time we got to this point, I noticed the guy sitting a few seats to my right with his phone open, apparently following along. At intermission I asked him about it and he said, “I’m not familiar with the music, I couldn’t understand a single word they were singing, so I found the libretto on line and followed along.”
A good idea, I thought. I followed suit in the second half, myself knowing well the plot while having lost word-for-word familiarity with its presentation. [Better late than never.]
I don’t have this problem with, say, HMS Pinafore. I’ve heard the operetta so many times that I know the words and can comprehend them almost regardless of how mushy the on-stage diction and how quick the delivery.
Good to keep in mind when we’re presenting new concepts to clients. Like my friend a few seats over, they don’t know the words yet and can’t follow along in their heads. It may be the first time they’ve heard them. We, feeling excited, speed forth thinking that our pace and enthusiasm will capture our listeners’ attention and fill them with enthusiasm equal to our own.
So, we need either to slow down (yes, to a pace that sounds dreary and lifeless to us) or, following the example of my friend several seats over, give our listeners the words so they can follow along.
We Are Seriously Social.