A Most Ingenious Paradox

A Most Ingenious Paradox : The Art of Gilbert and Sullivan

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Written more than a century ago, and initially regarded even by their creators as nothing more than light entertainment, the operas of Gilbert and Sullivan emerged over the course of the 20th century as the world's most popular body of musical-theatre works. Despite the works' resounding popularity and proven longevity however, most books written on Gilbert and Sullivan have focused on the authors, rather than their work. Examining all fourteen operas in detail, Gayden Wren offers a fresh look at the works themselves. He argues that the key to the operas' longevity lies not primarily in their clever lyrics, witty dialogue, or catchy music, but in the central themes underlying the characters and stories.
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Product details

  • Hardback | 408 pages
  • 162.1 x 239.8 x 31mm | 725.76g
  • New York, United States
  • English
  • numerous halftones and music examples
  • 0195145143
  • 9780195145144

Review quote

Gayden Wren's book is a worthwhile and long overdue attempt to get to the heart of the Savoy operas. Music and Letters Sometimes brilliant, occasionally maddening, Wren is almost unfailingly provocative. Gramophone Wren writes with instructive insight on each work ... His assessments of aspects of character are fascinating ... Wren's analysis of The Mikado and The Gondoliers are models of their kind. Gramophone Wren's writing is clear, concise and always readable. Insightful and entertaining this is a highly recommended book. Theatre Notebook Fresh and detailed ... exploration of the development of character in the operas is one of the book's greatest strengths ... peppered with humorous insights. Theatre Notebook Wren is at his strongest when dealing with characterisation. It is fascinating to read what cultural insights he finds in his discussion of the venerable British institution of G&S ... Those producing the operas wishing to reassess their interpretation of the characters will find much to set their minds ticking. William McVicker, Classical Music Mr Wren is, in short, the very model of a modern literary critic - sometimes pretentious, often irritating, but impressively forceful in his knowledge of the text and attention to detail. Rupert Christiansen, Spectator A well thought-out, forthright and engagingly written book which will be invaluable to anyone staging Gilbert and Sullivan, to anyone who wants to increase their knowledge of their works, and might even convince those who do not like G&S that it is worth trying. Opera Now
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About Gayden Wren

Gayden Wren is the entertainment editor for The New York Times Syndicate and artistic director of the New Punctuation Army, Inc. He is also a playwright whose produced works include A Gilbert & Sullivan Christmas Carol (1994) and Very Truly Yours, Gilbert & Sullivan (1997).
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Table of contents

1. Introduction; 2. Foreword; 3. Gilbert Before Sullivan; 4. Sullivan Before Gilbert; 5. Thespis; 6. Trial by Jury; 7. The Sorcerer; 8. H.M.S. Pinafore; 9. The Pirates of Penzance; 10. Patience; 11. Iolanthe; 12. Princess Ida; 13. The Mikado; 14. Ruddigore; 15. The Yeomen of the Guard; 16. The Gondoliers; 17. Utopia, Limited; 18. The Grand Duke; 19. Gilbert and Sullivan Afterward; 20. Legacy
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Rating details

22 ratings
4.4 out of 5 stars
5 50% (11)
4 45% (10)
3 0% (0)
2 5% (1)
1 0% (0)
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