The Brent Walker Iolanthe (1982)

Lord ChancellorDerek Hammond-Stroud
Earl of MountararatThomas Hemsley
Earl TollollerDavid Hillman
Private WillisRichard Van Allan
StrephonAlexander Oliver
Queen of the FairiesAnne Collins
IolantheBeverley Mills
CeliaSandra Dugdale
LeilaPamela Field
Fleta[not indicated]
PhyllisKate Flowers

Ambrosian Opera Chorus
London Symphony Orchestra
Conductor: Alexander Faris
Camera Director: Dave Heather
Stage Director: David Pountney

Videocassette Cover
OperaWorld IOL10V. (Derek Hammond-Stroud in foreground.)
DVD cover

This video is part of the Brent Walker series that was shown on PBS in the United States in the mid-1980s. As producer Judith de Paul and her company traversed the canon, the tendency was to get more cute with the technology. That was what happened in this Iolanthe, which features numerous scene changes in the first act that get in the way of dramatic continuity. Later in the opera, the director splices in ersatz newsreel footage showing Strephon meeting with the Queen, giving political speeches, and so on. When all the video trickery is stripped away, what remains is only a fair account of the opera.

Phil Sternenberg wrote:

Although I believe I'm in a minority, one of my favorites is the Brent Walker Iolanthe. I first caught it in 1982 during the final week of existence of CBS Cable, when it aired with the other BW videos produced up to that time: Pinafore, Pirates, Mikado, and Gondoliers. I found the others so comparatively inferior that Iolanthe stood well above them. Here are some points in its favor:

  1. There is no celebrity casting.
  2. It's 100% complete aside from an abbreviated overture.
  3. There is an old DCOC lead: Pamela Field, although she was Leila instead of the Phyllis she had played and recorded.
  4. It makes the most of the medium for which it was produced. Iolanthe has a supernatural setting, and despite the ingenuity that has been present in some live stage productions, only video techniques can approximate the full extent of the magic the story suggests. We actually see Strephon make himself invisible down to the waist. One of my favorite touches is when, in the scene before the Act I Finale, Strephon decides to drown himself, only to be pulled out of the water with nothing more than the wave of a wand by his mother, who materializes out of nothingness. The newsreel scene at the end of Act I is odd, but when one considers how the men's and women's lyrics clash with each other anyway, there isn't all that much from which to be distracted. I still got a laugh out of it the first time I saw it.
Issue History
1982 Brent Walker Productions VHS PAL [unnumbered]  
1986 Woolworth VHS PAL S1000
1991 BraveWorld Video VHS PAL STV 2047
1994 Polygram Video VHS PAL 6325103
1996 Opera World VHS NTSC IOL10V
1999 Roadshow (Aust./NZ) VHS PAL 102027
2002 Acorn Media DVD AMP-8536 Available only in a 10-disc boxed set (cat. AMP-5483) including the entire Brent Walker series, excepting Trial and Cox and Box.