The Lyric Theater Company Grand Duke (1965)

RudolphThomas Jones
Ernest DummkopfKeith Decker
LudwigHarold Isen
Dr. TannhäuserGregory Wise
Prince of Monte CarloJoseph Ilardo
HeraldJohn Pepper
Princess of Monte CarloBonnie Kahn
Baroness von KrakenfeldtCarroll Mattoon
Julia JellicoeSusan Hoagland
LisaMarion Scodari
OlgaJanet Johnson
GretchenLisa Sunderland
BerthaBarbara Kline
ElsaConstance Fletcher
MarthaHelen Mueller

Lyric Theater Company
Producer: Peter Kline
Conductor: John Landis

This was the third of an ambitious string of recordings by the Lyric Theater Company of Washington, D.C. (no longer in operation, sadly). All three — Utopia, The Mountebanks, and this Grand Duke — were recorded with complete dialogue and included every note of the vocal score. They were originally issued on a private label but enjoyed fairly wide distribution, judging from the number of people who seem to have them. Utopia was re-issued by Pearl Records in the 1970s. This one was not. Nevertheless, it had the distinction of being the first complete Grand Duke on record.

This recording effectively superseded an earlier and less complete one by the same group, as Ron Orenstein recounted:

Lyric Theater produced Grand Duke twice, and recorded it both times, The first recording, which is not in Marc's discography, was released in 1962 on two discs. I do not have this recording, but from references to it in liner notes of other Lyric Theater recordings I gather the orchestration was not Sullivan's and there were some modifications (e.g., as I recall, Ernest, Rudolph and the Notary sang the "private plot" trio from Utopia in Act II). [Peter Kline, Lyric's director, suggested interpolating the "private plot" trio into The Grand Duke in his book, Gilbert and Sullivan Production. —ed.] This may be without dialogue; the 1965 recording, on 3 discs, has full dialogue.

John Pepper, who played the Herald, provided this background story of how the recording was made:

During my adolescence, in the years 1959–1965 but mostly in the second half of that stretch, I was involved in various ways with the Lyric Theater Company ("Lyric" to its personal friends), and so I read with great interest what you and others have written about it.

For The Grand Duke, we used the original orchestration, hiring the parts from D'Oyly Carte, but since the Prince of Monte Carlo's Roulette song was missing therefrom, John himself orchestrated that — I copied some of the parts. It's a very effective number, IMO — goes with a somewhat raffish French opera swing, sounding like Gounod with a soupçon of Offenbach — and it's in my favourite key, D flat major! Evidently Sullivan, a roulette devotee, had no trouble getting into the text.

John Landis was passionate & acquisitive about Sullivan's music. It irritated him that there existed no conductor's full score of the operas — what he got from DOC was a hand-annotated vocal score. So while he had the parts of The Grand Duke in his possession (Utopia & Mountebanks too, I suppose) he burned much midnight oil copying them in pencil on to score paper, to be inked in later — a great secret, at least from DOC. He used this score in performance, and of course retained it afterwards, while the parts (one of only 2 sets, as he understood it) went back under lock and key at the Savoy Hotel.

Mind you, the annotated GD vocal score was not without interest, e.g., there was a hand-written, interpolated "No. 2a," anticipating the "Opoponax, Eloia" music in Act II (apparently by way of illustrating Ludwig's description of his imaginary wedding-procession); it included indications of instrumentation and was written very neatly in red ink, with a fountain pen, in a hand that looked a lot like Sullivan's. Similarly, for Ludwig's dialogue with the Baroness in Act II there was a hand-written indication of how the chorus interpolation "For any disappointment" would work, since that was left out of the printed score.

The recording is not in my personal collection, but J. Donald Smith provided this review:

This mono recording of the "complete" Grand Duke is the "First Night" version. Like many other records of that period, it was recorded at a low gain, and with a weak pressing it is difficult to hear the loud passages as loud.

This version has different strengths and weaknesses than does the Mount Oread Grand Duke. The enunciation is not as good and the chorus is somewhat muddy. There is a full orchestra (but still amateur). The Rudolph has an excellent singing voice, but his speaking voice is so strong that one has trouble visualizing him as a "broken-down critter." In fact, the major criticism of this performance is the general weakness in dramatic characterization in the dialogue.

This is a performance that I would not listen to frequently unless I wanted to hear the dialogue. For a performance with dialogue, there is little choice between this version and that of the Mount Oread group. Each has its strengths and weaknesses, and the choice would appear to depend on which recording one might be able to find.

Issue History
1967 Lyric Theatre Mono LP LOA 103