Put a Penny in the Slot
An Adaptation of The Mountebanks
Royal Victorian Opera Company
Adaptation: C. V. Berney
Review by J. Donald Smith
The reputation of The Mountebanks has always suffered as "The Lozenge Plot" which Sullivan refused to set for Gilbert. While Sullivan may have been right in his assessment of the entire opera, this adaptation of some of the best numbers in the work demonstrates that there was much that was (and is) worthwhile therein. About 80% of the words in this adaptation are by Gilbert, but the adaptation is so skillfully done that without the original score, one couldn't tell which are Gilbert's and which have been modified. The work contains some of Gilbert's best numbers including: "Though I'm a buffoon," "Ophelia was a dainty little maid," "Those days of old," "Now all you pretty villagers," "If our action's stiff and crude," and "When your clothes, from your hat to your socks" (the latter being the original version of "When you find you're a broken-down critter", from The Grand Duke.) Gilbert's take-off on Hamlet is worth the price by itself.
Cellier's music is extremely tuneful. It derives more from the French School of Offenbach than the Italianate sound which Sullivan favored. This is a performance which brings a small piece of The Mountebanks to life and is one which I have not yet tired of viewing.