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The Michigan Daily [ michigandaily.com I Thursday, December 9, 2010
Dec. 9 to Dec. 12
This Saturday from 11
a.m. to 8 p.m., the Tiny
Expo Indie Holiday
Arts & Craft Fair will
feature a gathering of
Ann Arbor area art-
ists and offer a unique
local shopping experi-
ence. Wares include
everything from license
plate belt buckles
to specialty coffee
blends. The Fair will be
at 325 and 327 Braun
Court, across from
AT THE MIC
Tomorrow at 7:30 p.m.,
the a cappella group
Compulsive Lyres will
r present their winter
Night Lyres." The co-ed
a cappella group will
be performing popular
music - everything
from Bruno Mars
FARCE TO FAME to Neil Diamond -
o men behind "The and "Saturday Night
ther wildly popular Live"-like skits at the
Silbert and Sullivan's East Hall Auditorium.
begins in late 19th- Tickets from $5.
By Joe Cadagin // Daily Arts Writer
odgers and Hammerstein. Lerner
and Loewe. Gershwin and Ger-
shwin. Lloyd Webber and Rice.
Since drama was first set to music
in ancient times, the relationship between
composer and librettist has been a sacred
partnership, resulting in some of the greatest
works of opera and musical theater. Without
.the dynamic duo of Richard Rodgers and
Oscar Hammerstein II, we would not have
"The Sound of Music." Without the incompa-
rable pair of Lorenzo da Ponte and Wolfgang
Amadeus Mozart, there would be no "Mar-
riage of Figaro."
There is something unique about the joint
enterprise of two artists. What makes this
I relationship so special is the common mind-
set of the two parties involved - the com-
poser must highlight the beauty of language
in the librettist's text, and the librettist must
challenge the composer and bring out the
best in his music. When two artists "click,"
the works they generate are unparalleled.
While time has produced hundreds of
such partnerships, one pair seems to stand
above the rest - librettist W.S. Gilbert and
composer Sir Arthur Sullivan. For 25 years,
these comedic gods of the late 19th century
had British theater-goers in stitches with
their zany, madcap operettas.
To this day, Gilbert and Sullivan's works
are cherished by music lovers worldwide.
Societies across the globe - from Spain to
Israel to South Africa to New Zealand - are
devoted to performing the operettas of Gil-
bert and Sullivan. Ann Arbor happens to
boast the oldest of North American societies:
the University of Michigan Gilbert & Sulli-
When it was founded in 1947, UMGASS
made its mission clear: its first-ever program
reads, "In time we hope to get through all
their works, the less well-known ones as well
as the ones to which everyone comes already
humming the tunes."
Since its founding year, the society has
reached its goal of performing the entire
13-work canon of Gilbert and Sullivan oper-
ettas. UMGASS puts on at least two shows a
year, and sometimes even a third during the
summer. Starting this Thursday, UMGASS
will present an earlier G&S operetta, the 1877
hit "The Sorcerer."
'LOVE LEVELS ALL'
For newbies unfamiliar with Gilbert and
Sullivan, UMGASS's upcoming performance
is a perfect starting point.
"The Sorcerer" takes place in the small
English town of Ploverleigh, where lead
characters Alexis Pointdextre and Aline
Sangazure have been engaged to be married.
Alexis, enthralled with the matrimonial bliss
his engagement has brought him, wants all of
the villagers to share in his joy.
"So (Alexis), who has more money than
sense, hires a sorcerer to give a love por-
tion to the entire village so they can enjoy
the same happiness they have," said "Sor-
cerer" director Mitchell Gillett, an electron
microscopist in the ophthalmology and
Visual Sciences department of the medical
school. "After the potion is given, hilarity
ensues, as it were. Everything is all con-
fused - old men are with young ladies, rich
with poor, lower class with upper class, etc.
People who were in love with other people
are now in love with different people, and
some of them are not too happy about it."
When the situation becomes serious,
Alexis realizes the potion must be reversed
and the village returned to normal. How-
ever, this requires a sacrifice from the sor-
cerer, resulting in a hilariously dark ending.
Gillett pointed to an important theme of
the work that appears in several other G&S
operettas - that love levels all ranks. In
class-conscious Victorian England, society
was governed by the laws and etiquette of
social status. Gilbert and Sullivan, however,
radically challenged these social norms by
G&S have got this
witty humor that
still appeals to modern
pairing rich characters with poor characters.
Gillett explained that this is especially true
in "The Sorcerer," in which social distinc-
tions are totally obliterated when the villag-
ers are given the love potion.
"Even though Gilbert returns everything
back to the status quo, he's kind of shown
that the status quo isn't necessarily always
the very best thing," Gillett said.
Gillett made the decision to update the
production to the 1920s, mentioning that
this was one of the last time periods in Eng-
land when social status was still important.
"Within a few years we were going to
have the Depression and world war, and
by the end of all that there was no problem
with a duke marrying a chorus girl in a West
End show," he said.
FROM FAILURE TO E
But who are the tw
Sorcerer" and the 12 o
operettas? The story offG
legendary partnership 1
ceRIy Zlgl .
Before joining forces with Sullivan in 1871,
Gilbert had made a name for himself collabo-
rating with another composer for a series of
comic operas. Likewise, Sullivan had had at
least one experience in operetta, in addition
to composing oratorios, a symphony and a
Yet when these two relatively successful
artists came together in 1871, their alliance
resulted in an operatic flop called "Thes-
pis," whose score has been lost to time. But
what seemed an unpromising partnership
blossomed into a viable one when, four
years later, theatrical agent and impresario
Richard D'Oyly Carte brought the two men
together to pen the one-act opera "Trial by
"The Sorcerer" followed "Trial by Jury" in
1877. By this time, Gilbert and Sullivan had
developed a model that would serve as a tem-
plate for their later works.
"It's really just a little gem," Gillett said of
"The Sorcerer." "It was their first full-length
show that was going to be in the style (of
their later works). They're kind of working
out some of their style at that point."
This style largely consists of musical and
social satire. G&S operettas take a tongue-in-
cheek look at British society, spoofing poli-
tics, social norms and current events.
"Every single one of their shows is a huge
farce," said School of Music, Theatre &
Dance junior Matt Peckham, who plays one
See UMGASS, Page 4B
With a stressful week
of final exams ahead,
it can be hard to get
into the holiday spirit.
Remind yourself what
Christmas is all about
by coming to the Mich-
igan Theater on Sunday
at 4 p.m. for a free
screening of "Miracle
on 34th Street." The
film, the latest in the
Holiday Classic Film
Series, tells the heart-
warming tale of Kris
Kringle, a department
store Santa who brings
a family together.
Need a distraction
from the 20+ pages
worth of papers you
still need to write
for the end of the
semester? Then head
down to the Blind Pig
on Sunday to hear
hop gem Mac Miller
spit verses that will
have you instantly
chilled out. Since
2009, the 18-year-
old wunderkind has
released six mixtapes,
each showcasing his
tive. Doors open at 8
p.m. Tickets from $13.