Featuring the london symphony orchestra and a host of international stars, including vincent price, joel gray, peter marshall, keith mitchell, frankie howerd and peter allen. Filmed in england and created especially for tv, they have delighted fans on pbs and the bbc.
The Master Collection
includes 10 Gilbert and Sullivan operettas produced for British television. The Opera World series (1982) is the only comprehensive Gilbert and Sullivan series on video. It comprises 12 G&S works (if you cheat and count Cox and Box
, written by Sullivan without Gilbert), including, for some titles, the only available version. (Cox and Box
and the one-act farce Trial by Jury
, their first collaboration, are not part of this set.) In terms of quality, the series is uneven. There are some treasures, but some productions have a disconsolate penny-pinching look, and a few need more rehearsal. The casts are a blend of Broadway singers, British and American comedians, and D'Oyly Carte veterans, with stars including Vincent Price (Ruddigore
), Joel Grey (The Yeomen of the Guard
), and singer-songwriter Peter Allen (The Pirates of Penzance
). Frequent standout performers include Keith Michell, Clive Revill, Kate Flowers, and Anne Collins, who shines as a procession of unloved older women.
Of the series, the standouts are Ruddigore, a trifle of a ghost story set to gorgeous music, and The Sorcerer, a buoyant tale of a magic potion that causes a whole village to fall in love with the wrong people; Iolanthe (a House of Lords satire mixed with ethereal fantasy), The Gondoliers (with Sullivan's Italianate, most radiant score), and Princess Ida (a satire of higher education for women set in an Arthurian kingdom) are also well worth seeing. The others--The Pirates of Penzance, The Mikado, H.M.S. Pinafore, Patience, and The Yeomen of the Guard--are less satisfying. --David Olivenbaum