Tonight I wanted to write about the comic operas of Gilbert and Sullivan as I will be performing the role of The Plaintiff in their one-act opera ‘Trial By Jury’ for Surrey Opera on the 16th December 2018. I will be joined by the talented Stephen Anthony Brown, the effervescent Giles Davis, and the amazing Tim Baldwin for what I hope will be a fun-filled evening.
My first encounter with Gilbert and Sullivan was when I studied at the junior department of the Royal Northern College of Music when we performed in The Yeomen of the Guard. Gilbert and Sullivan were both born in Victorian England, Gilbert in 1836 and Sullivan in 1842. Their partnership produced fourteen comic operas which have been performed Internationally to appreciative audiences for over one hundred years. Gilbert wrote the Libretti, the text, and Sullivan composed the music.
Trial By Jury
The story pokes fun at the common law of Breach of Promise, it was considered that if a man made a promise of engagement to marry a woman and subsequently changed his mind then his fiancé could sue him for damages. The law was repealed in England in 1970, the last prominent case to be heard in the English courts was the case brought by Eva Haraldsted against the footballer George Best in 1969.
In the opera, I play the role of The Plaintiff who is beseeching the court to award her substantial damages as she loves the man who has broken his promise of marriage. The Defendant pleads with the court to keep the award small as he is “such a very bad lot”. There is much argument between the parties with The Jurymen recalling their misspent youth but as they are all now respectable gentlemen, they can have no sympathy with the actions of the defendant.
The Defendant eventually offers to marry both The Plaintiff and his new love, but as The Judge points out that though this would appear to be an equitable arrangement it would be a serious crime in itself. The Defendant then goes on to explain to the court that he is, in fact, a smoker, a drunkard, and a bully (when drunk) and The Plaintiff would not have wanted to spend more than a day married to him. The Judge suggests that The Defendant should make himself drunk to prove his point. The rest of the court objects to this and fed up with the lack of progress the Judge offers to marry The Plaintiff himself. The Plaintiff finds this outcome much to her liking and as such the opera ends on a happier note.
Classical Gala With Rolando Villazón And Guests
I also wanted to share with you that I have been asked to perform at next year’s Llangollen International Eisteddfod as a guest of tenor Rolando Villazón who will be performing there for the first time. Also appearing with him will be the Welsh lyric soprano Rhian Lois. I am thrilled and honoured to have been asked to take part in the concert which takes place on the 2nd July 2019. Tickets will go on sale on the 12th December.
51 thoughts on “Trial By Jury”
What great role, Charlotte! I would love to see this. Have you seen the move about G&S, “Topsy Turvy”? The best film I have ever seen about rehearsal and performance, and just delightful from beginning to end. (It’s about the creation of “The Mikado.”) Great luck with the show: toi, toi, toi!
No Peter I’ve never seen the movie but thanks for the information. I’ve been spending time learning the music now to double down on getting the words off score. I’m looking forward to getting together with the cast many of whom are very experienced in this genre so it’s a fabulous opportunity.
Glad there was a happy ending there 😉 I don’t think I’ve heard of this one. I have heard a lot of the music from other works of theirs but have only seen The Mikado. This sounds fun. Hope you have a god time with it and have a great performance!
Thank you Trent, I’m up to my neck in auditions at the moment so it’s nice to work on something new at the same time as keeping audition repertoire tip top. I’m looking forward to it.
You seem to have been working a lot since you graduated and it all seems to be really fun stuff to, which is great. I hope the auditions go well and more good roles continue to roll in 🙂
Awesome law & story, dear Charlotte! We should return this law back! 🙂
Haha, I thought that, I know a couple of girls that stayed in relationships with promises made only to have their partner back out with cold feet as more commitment was asked for and this year I played Cunegonde that was promised to be married which came to naught. But girls would have to take care now with equality!!
Hm…it is even hotter, dear Charlotte. Imagine, she comes to the Court and hits straightly his face…or some other gentle parts! What a scene! Could you add it to your performance?
Sounds like a fun opera, but I’ve never quite got into the music of Gilbert and Sullivan. Good luck in all your forthcoming endeavours xx
Thank you Christine, It’s part of my job to become more knowledgeable about the whole operatic genre and when I find things, I really enjoy I will share them on my blog, I think this one is going to be fun, bizarre but fun.
Sounds a wonderful opportunity and one you’ll knock out of the park.
Thank you Alex, there is a lot tongue in cheek moments in the score I’m looking to hear everyone’s interpretation in this performance.
What fun, Charlotte. Sounds like a match made in heaven, at least with the judge.
Have fun dear Charlotte! I wish that I could see this one.
Angelina, the plaintiff, seems quite unashamedly mercenary doesn’t she! All three leading ladies I’ve played this year have been looking to marry to men with money. Either the people writing the plays have low opinions of female suitors or they were indeed intent on security over love.
Gilbert and Sullivan, what fun! I auditioned for a local theatre production of Pinafore and they wondered if I would consider tackling a male role, as my voice wasn’t high enough for the female roles. Alas, my tenor range was perfect however, my overly female shape was not so easily hidden. Twas not meant to be. Cheers to you for having it all in your favor.
Haha, contralto/mezzo is a lovely vocal range with lots of lovely lieder and oratorio to sing. I make quite a good boy for a trouser role but I’d have to wear a jelly bra to get the buxom look lol.
That is a cool story and I think is funny in away. That is the great role for you!
Thank you I’ve been working hard on the score all weekend. When my character says and if he goes and marries both. It counts as burglaree (instead of bigamy) is the sort of silly mistake with a word I’d make so that made me chuckle.
Sounds like an enjoyable role for you and a fun show to see. At least there is a happy ending for your part. Lol! Best of luck with your performance! 😘🤗
Well Angelina finally sings “Oh, Joy unbounded, with wealth surrounded” … “the knell is sounded of grief and woe” so she seems very happy with the Judges solution eek.
Congratulations, Charlotte. I’m always intrigued by these Opera Stories. Reminds me of the Soap Opera, “The Young and The Restless” on TV. They are engaged, the guy backs out, and the lady wants to sue him? This was an actual Law until 1970? Wow.. And the Plaintiff can’t marry the Judge. No! No. She’s supposed to be so in-love and heartbroken by the Defendant that she doesn’t want to be with anyone else. Furthermore, if the Defendant says she wouldn’t want to be with him anyway (drinking issues) why did he promise to marry her in the first place?! I can’t take this… my head hurts. This is like… 11% of a Plan. He doesn’t know what he’s doing. She’ll be better off with someone else. Ugh!
Hahaha, in the 1800’s I read that women were expected to marry and have children, but there was a shortage of available men! Mortality rates for boys was higher than for girls, men entered the armed forces and emigrated too. After the wedding the men were expected to totally take care of the woman and even if the woman worked, she would be expected to turn her earnings over to the man of the house.
Upper and Middle class women were dependent on their partner so choosing a wealthy man probably seemed like a good choice, however, the children belonged to the man, the man was able to be unfaithful when married because that wasn’t a good enough reason for divorce, although The Matrimonial Causes Act in 1857 said that the man could divorce her on the grounds of her adultery. So she had to depend on her good looks and charm.
You’re serious. Well, apparently, some dude made up these rules ’cause there’s no way women would want to give up their earnings freely. Then, he gets to roam while she has to stay faithful? What a pile of rubbish. Injustice.
Oh, I still remember all the lines verbatim from the 8th grade!
“I love him, I love him, with fervor unceasing,
I worship and madly adore.
My blind adoration is ever increasing,
My loss I shall ever deplore.
Oh see what a blessing, what love and caressing,
I ‘ve lost and remember it pray,
When you I’m addressing, are busy assessing,
the damages Edwin must pay.”
Wasn’t there a chorus somewhere around here of, “Yes, he must pay!”
And then Richie Wiles (He became famous in Canada and then died young) sang,
“I smoke like a furnace, I’m always on liquor, a ruffian, a bully a sot.
I know I should thrash her, perhaps I would kick her, I am such a very bad lot.”
G & S was so much fun to sing!
Enjoy. I would love to be in the audience!
Brilliant! I want your long-term memory Cindy. I’m looking forward to it. After a quick trip over to the States this week, alas the opposite side of the Country to you 😊.
All my best wishes
Please post the link if Trial By Jury is filmed. I would look forward to seeing the performance.
That would be lovely Joe but I’m not sure it’s being recorded.
Best of luck with your performance
Thank you very much 😊
All my best wishes
Congrats on the part. Saw Trial by Jury for the first time last year (we have a local G&S group), it’s a fun show.
I saw the Mikado at Scottish Opera when I was in Glasgow a couple of years ago it was brilliant, the comic timing was impeccable, great shows if you need cheering up.
I love the sound of Trial by Jury, it looks quite a fun role😁 congratulations on your upcoming performance next year at Llangollen, me and Terry will be there and can’t wait👏👏👏
I think you would enjoy these Gill, sung in English, lots of comic moments, if you fancy a weekend away in London Christmas shopping…. 😊 It’ll be great for you two to have an excuse to go to Llangollen again next year that hotel you stayed in this year was fab.
Sounds a riotous farce and I’m sure you will be fabulous in it as one of the critical elements of a G&S is the diction – which you have nailed!
It is a fun learn. I’ve worked really hard this past couple of years in London to sort out my Northern vowels to sound more RP hehe, my Brother-in-Law Alex gets calls from me to check how he pronounces certain words, in return when he comes up North I stop him saying Laa-tay for La:tte 😊.
All my best wishes
I need someone to tell me how a West Yorkshireman would have pronounced Whitley in the late 1800s. I suspect it is nothing like what I think! 🙂
Oh you have taken me back to my childhood and to my grandmother who not only introduced me to grand opera but to Gilbert and Sullivan at a very early age. Every local operatic/dramatic society did one G&S operetta at least once a year and grandma was sure to take me to every one. These visits were supplemented by many old 78rpm records and, probably, ‘Friday Night is Music Night’ on BBC, which was mandatory listening.
I’m sure you will make a great ‘plaintiff’; what fun!
Congratulations on the Eisteddfod ‘gig’ ; I think you mean July 2019 😃
Thank you Roger I’ve edited to the post now to 2019. You had great creative viewing as a child, I really hope this is so for this generation of children and that parents don’t make the mistake of thinking tv and video games are enough enrichment.
What an honor to be in the Trial by Jury, I know it will be a huge success. May the Lord bless you richly my Beloved.
Thank you Rev.Tim, it’s Surrey Opera’s annual Christmas Soiree so I was pleased to be invited back.
Your career has taken off brilliantly, Charlotte. (not that I doubted it for a moment!) I hope you will have a video of one of your songs for us from the show in a future post.
Bravo, meilleurs voeux de grand succès Charlotte !
What a fun opera, Charlotte – you are going to be perfect in the role! I love the Gilbert and Sullivan’s operas – they are so much fun! I was introduced to them in college…
This is more exciting than I can say. Rolando is one of my great singing heroes. To have you both on the same stage will be a special joy. We will try and get tickets. Gilbert and Sullivan were a great feature of my childhood and helped to influence my love of opera. I wish you the best of luck.
As a trial lawyer, I am sure I’d love it! But I am equally sure that everyone else will love it, too! Best wishes to you!
Suspect you’re going to have rather a lot of fun!
I remember them. My mom loved Gilbert and Sullivan. I have no doubt you will excel here.
A wonderful opportunity! And what wonderful comments above!
I’ve loved G&S since I was 10 or 11. Delightfully funny. I hope you find the experience immensely fun.
Great writing.! Quite inspirational.
Okay, so that was a fab post! Gilbert and Sullivan rock… well in their world, but in my words. You must be having the best time. So excited to hear about your upcoming performance in Llangollen International Eisteddfod.
I had to listen to Rolando Villazón after I read your post.
OMG! It is going to be an amazing performance for all.
WordPress kept saying it couldn’t find your site for a while, to my fury.
What a lovely role. Funnily enough, I have just been though a session of G & S on my car CD player. A mixture. I love those tunes and the wit of Gilbert’s lyrics. How I would like to catch the show. Ah well. Panto tomorrow. I’ll have to make do with that.