Gilbert and Sullivan's 'Princess Ida'
At the First Congregational Church
Although Princess Ida is by no means vintage Gilbert and Sullivan, it is obviously enough in the tradition of the acknowledged masterpieces to be familiar and enjoyable ground for the G. & S. lover. In most of their operettas, for instance, there is one piece which hearkens back effectively to the music of England's "Golden Age" of Purcell and Byrd. In Ida, the lovely duet-minuet sung by Melissa and Lady Blanche becomes, not so much from the quality of the singing as from the grace and obvious enjoyment of the singers, one of the high spots of the performance. It should be noted, however, that G. & S. did not achieve here that perfect union of talents which marks their best works: Gilbert's libretto to Ida is, with exceptions, far superior to Sullivan's sore.
Elizabeth Kalkhurst was forceful in the rather forbidding title role, although she failed to make any transition between her original coldness and her final surrender. Her intonation was weak in the first and last at, especially in the last when her voice seemed to tire badly; her singing in the second act showed what she could do for a whole evening if she would peace herself properly. James Greene, as Hilarion, floated amiably through his part; his voice has a lyrical quality which served him well in singing but contributed to the insipidity of his acting.
William Cowperthwaite was a competent King Hildebrand. The stiffness and inflexibility of his acting, which might have detracted from another role, provided a strong contrast to Wayne Paton's brilliant performance as King Gama. Paton's portrayal of the irascible hunchback was worthy of Martyn Green, both for its cheerful leering and its precise enunciation. Nell Davenport was equally well cast as Lady Blanche; her voice, however, was not quite equal to the range of the score. Merle Moses, as Lady Psyche, effectively contrasts here susceptibility to Lady Blanche's austerity. Melissa, played by Sally Cameron, displayed a spirit and enthusiasm for her role which set the tone for the other female members of the cast.
As Cyril and Florian, Hilarion's sidekicks, Donald Fern and William Nethercut maintained uniform quality throughout demanding roles. In the second act, for instance, they sang five ensembles in a row without losing their freshness. Fern's comic touches also contributed to the general hilarity.
King Gama's mustachioed sons, Jonathan Levy, Peter Duren, and Don McIntyre, made the most of choice roles. Their delightful hamminess was emulated by a well-trained chorus which obviously enjoyed Princess Ida. So will weekend audiences.