Gilbert and Sullivan Highlights (1978, 1979)

Thomas Edmonds, tenor
Dennis Olsen, baritone


Norma Knight, soprano
Ruth Gurner, mezzo-soprano
Robert Dawe, baritone

The Corinthian Singers
The Festival Chorale
Adelaide Symphony Orchestra
Conductor: James Christiansen

Premium Masters PCD 10090
Premium Masters PCD 10090
RCA VRL1-0232
RCA VRL1-0232
RCA VRL1-0325
RCA VRL1-0325
Starcall BPCD 5028
Starcall BPCD 5028

There were two albums made with the same forces, just a year apart. A CD re-issue included highlights drawn from the two LPs. Baritone Dennis Olsen and tenor Thomas Edmonds were the two featured performers, with Olsen being perhaps the slightly better known of the two. Olsen understudied John Reed with D'Oyly Carte for the 1970-71 season, but he left the Company when it became clear that Reed would not be retiring anytime soon. He then returned to his native Australia, and he has since appeared in a number of G&S productions for Opera Australia and State Opera of South Australia. (Several of these have been published on video.)

Concerning Olsen, correspondent Robert Morrison wrote:

In Australia, Dennis Olsen is held in as high esteem as a G & S comedian as, say, John Reed is in the U.K. (Or as Ivan Menzies was to an earlier generation of Australian G & S fans. Menzies was principal comedian with the J. C. Williamson Gilbert & Sullivan Opera Co. for all of their Australasian tours between 1931 and 1951.)

In fact Olsen was Reed's understudy, or deputy, during his tenure with the D'Oyly Carte on tour in 1970-71 and was touted to be his successor as principal comedian of the company during this period. However, to quote Olsen from his programme biography: "John Reed had a new lease of life, which is probably just as well because it enabled me to do all sorts of different things which I probably wouldn't have done....," and so Olsen returned to Australia at the end of the tour.

Australian G & S productions in which Olsen has appeared include Iolanthe (Lord Chancellor), for the Opera Australia in 1976 with Heather Begg as the Queen of the Fairies; (this production was broadcast on Australian television by ABC-TV, but has not, to date, been released on home video); H.M.S. Pinafore (Sir Joseph Porter), for the State Opera of South Australia in Adelaide; (this was also telecast by ABC-TV and simulcast on ABC FM radio in 1981 but has not been released on video to date); Patience (Bunthorne), for Opera Australia in 1980, 1983, 1987 and 1995, (the last production was simulcast on ABC-TV and ABC Classic FM radio and subsequently released on video); and The Gondoliers (Don Alhambra).

In 1991 Dennis Olsen toured Australia playing George Grossmith in the one-man show A Song to Sing, O! by Melvyn Morrow, (reworked from a version written for and performed by John Reed at the Savoy Theatre, London in 1981.) The premise of the play is a visit by a newspaper reporter to Grossmith's dressing room at the Savoy as he waits between the matinée and evening shows to give his last performance of Jack Point with the D'Oyly Carte Opera Company in The Yeomen of the Guard, which prompts Grossmith to grant an interview in which he reminsces about his stage career, interspersed with renditions of the G & S patter songs and his own self-penned humourous songs at the piano. The previous year Olsen had played Grossmith in a radio adaptation of the play broadcast by ABC FM, which was expanded to include a number of characters including Jessie Bond and Richard Temple, in addition to the reporter. (In the one-man version, Grossmith speaks directly to the audience, who assume the role of the unseen and unheard reporter.)

The first of these albums, recorded in 1978, was called Gilbert and Sullivan Highlights, and it included the following numbers:

Side 1Side 2
  • The Gondoliers, Overture
  • "Take a pair of sparkling eyes" (Edmonds)
  • The Judge's Song (Olsen & Chorus)
  • "The battle's roar is over" (Knight, Edmonds)
  • "Tit Willow" (Olsen)
  • "We're called gondolieri" (Edmonds, Dawe)
  • "I have a song to sing, O" (Knight, Olsen & Chorus)
  • "If you go in" (Edmonds, Olsen, Dawe)
  • "The flowers that bloom in the spring" (Knight, Gurner, Edmonds, Olsen, Dawe)
  • "When I was a lad" (Olsen & Chorus)
  • "The nighingale"..."A maiden fair to see" (Edmonds & Chorus)
  • "Here's a how-de-do!" (Knight, Edmonds, Olsen)
  • "From the briny sea"..."I shipped d'ye see" (Edmonds & Chorus)
  • "When a wooer goes a-wooing" (Knight, Gurner, Edmonds, Olson)
  • "I am a courtier grave and serious" (Gurner, Knight, Olsen, Edmonds, Dawe)
  • "Dance a cachucha" (Chorus)

Then, in 1979, came a second album called More Highlights from Gilbert & Sullivan, with the following contents:

Side 1Side 2
  • The Pirates of Penzance, Overture (abridged)
  • "A wandering minstrel I" (Edmonds & Men's Chorus)
  • "My name is John Wellington Wells" (Olsen)
  • "Sing 'Hey to you—Good day to you'" (Gurner, Olsen)
  • "Is life a boon?" (Edmonds)
  • "In sailing o'er life's ocean wide" (Knight, Edmonds, Olsen)
  • "As some day it may happen" (Olsen & Men's Chorus)
  • "Never mind the why and wherefore" (Knight, Dawe, Olsen)
  • "Behold the Lord High Executioner" (Olsen & Men's Chorus)
  • "When first my old, old love I knew" (Edmonds & Chorus)
  • "Am I alone, and unobserved?" (Olsen)
  • "Were you not to Ko-Ko plighted" (Knight, Edmonds)
  • "In enterprise of Martial Kind" (Olsen, Gurner, Knight, Edmonds)
  • "Oh, gentlemen, listen, I pray" (Edmonds & Ladies Chorus)
  • "I am the very model of a modern Major-General" (Olsen & Chorus)
  • "A tenor, all singers above" (Edmonds)
  • "Away, away, my heart's on fire!" (Gurner, Edmonds, Dawe)
  • "For he's gone and married Yum-Yum" (All)

In the late 1980s, selections from the above two LP albums were released on a compilation CD in the late 1980's, details as follows:

The Gondoliers
Take a pair of sparkling eyes
We're called Gondolieri
In enterprise of martial kind
I am a courtier
Dance a cachuca
The Mikado
A wand'ring minstrel
Behold the lord high executioner
As some day it may happen
Here's a how-de-do
Were you not to Ko-Ko plighted
Tit Willow
The flowers that bloom in the spring
For he's gone and married Yum-Yum
The Yeomen of the Guard
When a wooer goes a-wooing
Is life a boon?
I have a song to sing-o
Trial by Jury
The Judge's song
When first my old, old love I knew
Oh, gentlemen, listen I pray
Am I alone and unobserved?
Sing hey to you, good day to you
From the briny sea/I shipped, d'ye see
The battle's roar is over
In sailing o'er life's ocean wide

This is the same CD compilation that was subsequently reissued in 1994 by Castle Communications (Australasia) Ltd. on the 'Premium Masters' label (pictured at the top of this page). Correspondent Robert Morrison believes that these were the first G&S albums professionally recorded in Australia.

Issue History
1978 RCA LP VRL1-0232 Album titled Gilbert and Sullivan Highlights
1978 RCA LP VRL1-0325 Album titled More Highlights from Gilbert & Sullivan
198-? Starcall CD BPCD 5028 CD titled Gilbert and Sullivan Highlights, comprising a selection from the two LPs
1994 Premium Masters CD PCD 10090