Some of the productions in the D'Oyly Carte Opera Company's current Boston repertoire have been on the disappointing side for this reviewer. A flaw or two in the casting have been noticeable, and perhaps some of the romantic glow assumed by the Gilbert and Sullivan operas during the lean years tended to disappear when they were seen again. Gilbert and Sullivan, despite the somewhat mystical reputation which time has given them, were no more consistent than any creative personalities, and there are bare spets and distinctly less interesting operas among their work.
"Iolanthe" as performed by the present D'Oyly Carte troupe represents. It is a pleasure to say, one of the most perfectly lyrical and most permanent achievements of the great collaborators. The opera maintains the high level of its music wonderfully well even between its most famous songs, and there are a number of brief but lovely musical numbers that leave you wishing there were more--the case with "Good Morrow, Good Mother," for example. The subject, too, is Gilbertian best. The combination of blunt, but sophisticated satire of the House of Peers with a typical G & S tale of mismated fairies and lovers produces a book which allows neither the plot nor the satire to become over-whelmingly dominant and then wearying.
The D'Oyly Carte cast is masterful in "Iolanthe." The most important factor in the evening's work remains Martyn Green, who is offered by the opera precisely the proper balance of singing and "business." Instead of the constant mugging of Ko-Ko or the small opportunities of the part of Major General Stanley, Green as the Lord Chancellor in "Iolanthe" has "When you're Lying Awake," "Faint Heart Never Won," and "I said to Myself, Said I" to sing as well as some of his most entertaining business.
The feminine leads, now evidently one of the company's strong points, are Margaret Mitchell as Phyllis, Denise Findlay as Iolanthe, and Elia Halman as the Fairy Queen. Miss Mitchell, seen before as Yum-Yum, has a delightfully crystal voice and an acting manner no less charming. Her eighteenth century makeup is excellent, and her innocent, pseudo-proper, very British diction in the spoken dialogue a special attraction of the evening. Miss Findlay is bewitching and demure as the 17-year old mother of the lad of 25, and Miss Halman perfect as the frightening but not really fierce Fairy Queen.
Leonard Osborn turns in a magnificent performance on vocal and acting levels as Earl Tolloller, and Richard Walker is fine as his friendly rival, the Earl of Mountararat. Richard Watson does his brief bit as Private Willis perfectly. Perhaps the weakest member of the cast is Charles Dorning as the male love interest, Strephon. Dorning's voice and style, while certainly adequate, are not up to the abilities of his fellows.
"Iolanthe," its run extended through tomorrow night by popular demand, is an essential for anyone who wants to see the D'Oyly Carte Company at its 1948 best. The latter half of this week sees a return to the Mikado. Then the troupe leaves Boston to spend a few months in Europe before its next American tour.