CBC's A Gilbert & Sullivan Gala (1994)

Tracy Dahl, soprano
Maureen Forrester, contralto
Torin Chiles, tenor
Richard Suart, baritone
Donnalynn Grant, mezzo-soprano
Derek Morphy, baritone

Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra
The Winnipeg Singers

The Gilbert & Sullivan Society
of Winnipeg

Conductor: Bramwell Tovey


Whether you like this disc hinges on your opinion of its main performer, patter baritone Richard Suart ("arguably the world's leading G&S comic actor," the liner notes tell us). If you are a Suart fan, this is the disc for you. If not, stay away.

I started out a Suart fan a few years ago, but have been gradually driven back by his cloying cocktail of look-how-clever-I-am mannerisms. For example, the ad-libbing while the Major-General searches for a rhyme goes beyond all reason and serves only to remind us that this is The Great Richard Suart we're hearing. I must respect his Nightmare Song, though, which is taken at as brisk a tempo as you're likely to hear.

Principal honors on this disc go to Tracy Dahl's cheery soprano and Maureen Forrester's accomplished contralto (given far too few opportunities to shine). Torin Chiles's baritonal-sounding tenor is out of place in G&S, and given his difficulty with high notes, I found it difficult to imagine where he wouldn't be in trouble. Neither Dahl nor Chiles have completely mastered their British accents, but at least they make the attempt, which is more than I can say for the (uncredited) Pirate King in the "orphan/often" dialogue.

The liner notes suggest that these forces were assembled in the first instance for a live performance, and this certainly explains some oddities. For example, seeing Richard Suart and Bramwell Tovey with Tracy Dahl in "Three Little Maids" must have been hilarious, but on record it seems merely juvenile. The dialogue sequences preceding "Oh foolish fay" and the List Song would undoubtedly have put these numbers in a dramatic context for the live audience, but on disc they seem superfluous. The words of the Trial finale are altered so that it can be sung by just three soloists (not the five in the original score).

Bramwell Tovey is a G&S conductor of consequence — he was the New D'OC's musical director in its first season — and I can only hope if he records in this genre again, it will be a complete set, not another batch of trifles. At least, the disc's running time of over 72 minutes is generous. The selections are listed below.

H.M.S. Pinafore
"The hours creep on apace" (Dahl)
"Never mind the why and wherefore" (Dahl/Chiles/Suart)
The Pirates of Penzance
"I am the very model of a modern Major-General" (Suart and Chorus)
DIALOGUE [including "often"/"orphan" sequence]
The Gondoliers
"In a contemplative fashion" (Dahl/Grant/Chiles/Suart)
The Pirates of Penzance
"All is prepared" (Dahl/Chiles)
"Stay, Frederic, stay" (Dahl/Chiles)
"Love, unrequired, robs me of my rest" (Suart)
The Mikado
"Three little maids" (Dahl/Suart/Tovey and Chorus)
Trial by Jury
Finale: "O joy unbounded" (Dahl/Chiles/Suart and Chorus)
DIALOGUE leading up to…
"O foolish fay" (Forrester and Chorus)
The Pirates of Penzance
"Stop, ladies pray!" (Chiles and Chorus)
"O is there not one maiden breast?" (Chiles/Dahl and Chorus)
"Poor wand'ring one" (Dahl and Chorus)
The Mikado
DIALOGUE leading up to…
"As some day it may happen" (Suart and Chorus)
"The flowers that bloom in the spring" (Dahl/Grant/Chiles/Suart/Morphy
"Alone and yet alive" (Forrester)
"On a tree by a river" (Suart)
"There is beauty in the bellow of the blast" (Forrester/Suart)
"For he's gone and married Yum-Yum" (Dahl/Grant/Chiles/Suart and Chorus)
The Gondoliers
"Once more gondolieri" (All)
Issue History
1994 CBC Records CD SMCD5139