|Comic Operas of Gilbert & Sullivan
John Prescott, PhD
The comic operas of Gilbert and Sullivan were the Beach Blanket Babylon of Victorian London. This class will explore these operas as masterworks in their own right as well as the way in which they affectionately poke fun at the musical, social and political world of their time and place.
The composer Sir Arthur Sullivan created multiple levels of musical parody referring to the music from renaissance madrigals to Japanese marches. No person or institution, from the Queen herself, to the Royal Navy, to the church, to the class system, was safe from the sharp-witted satires of W.S. Gilbert who wrote the sparkling words to these operas. We will learn about what made these operas so topical and explore how and why they have stood the test of time. No previous musical experience is necessary for this class. Come, listen, learn, and join in the adventure.
Week 1. The beginnings of the great collaboration: Trial by Jury
Week 2. H.M.S. Pinafore: Hilarity on the high seas.
Week 3. The Pirates of Penzance: or The Slave of Duty.
Week 4. The Mikado: Issues of cultural sensitivity in modern staging.
Week 5. The Yeoman of the Gard: Gilbert and Sullivan’s move towards serious opera
Week 6. The Gondoliers: Making a mockery of monarchy.
John Prescott received his Ph.D in Music History and Literature from the University of California, Berkeley. He wrote his doctoral dissertation on John Stanley, the 18th-century blind organist, conductor, violinist, and impresario. His academic honors include post-graduate study in music as a Marshal Scholar at St. John’s College, Cambridge University, England. In addition to delivering pre-concert lectures, program notes, and for musical performance groups throughout the Bay Area, he has taught at UC Berkeley and at The Crowden School in Berkeley, OLLI at UC Berkeley as well as OLLI at SF State, and was the musicologist for the San Francisco Elderhostel Arts and Humanities Program.