The D'Oyly Carte Complete Electrical Sets
D'Oyly Carte's first three electrical recordings all rank among the best the Company ever made. The 1926 Mikado included a brilliant cast of Henry Lytton (one of only four recordings by him), Leo Sheffield, Darrell Fancourt, Derek Oldham, Elsie Griffin and Bertha Lewis. The 1927 Gondoliers, with much the same cast, has achieved near-legendary status and probably sold more copies than any other set of its era. The 1927 Trial featured Sheffield's delightful Judge and may be the best recording of the opera ever made. All three of these have been re-issued on LP and CD.
The 1928 Yeomen was the first set to be conducted by Sir Malcolm Sargent, who would lead all but two of the remaining electrical sets. This recording and the 1929 Pirates were both made while the Company was on tour, but luckily HMV was able to cast most of the roles with a number of recently-retired Company members. The series continued at a brisk pace with Iolanthe (1930), Pinafore (1930), Patience (1930), Ruddigore (1931) and Princess Ida (1932).
Sir Henry Lytton said farewell to his remarkable D'Oyly Carte career with a performance of Jack Point in Dublin on June 30, 1934. The "patter" roles went to the man next in line, Martyn Green, who went on to no small success in his own right as the Company's principal comedian. The Company's 1936 Mikado recording was, unlike its predecessors, not occasioned by an improvement in recording technology or performing standards, but merely the opportunity to put the D'Oyly Carte's most prominent performer into as many living rooms as possible, singing his most popular role.
There is every reason to guess that, had Hitler not invaded Poland and a worldwide depression not been raging, the Company would have gone on in leisurely fashion and made a brand new series of electrical recordings featuring Martyn Green. But, with war on the horizon, the 1936 Mikado would in fact be the Company's last recording for thirteen years. By that time, a new technology called the long-playing record had emerged. So, this was the last electrical G&S set to be made.