Gilbert & Sullivan's Greatest Hits
a/k/a The Best of Gilbert & Sullivan (Video, 1983)

Peter Pratt
Geoffrey Shovelton
John Ayldon
Vivian Tierney
Patricia Leonard

W. S. Gilbert: Peter Cellier
Arthur Sullivan: John Rapley

Hertfordshire County Youth Orchestra
Massed Choral Forces led by
The Royal Choral Society

Conductor: Marcus Dods

Video Sleeve

This performance of concerted highlights, featuring former D'Oyly Carte stars, was recorded at the Royal Albert Hall on the 100th anniversary of Iolanthe, 11 October 1982. As Peter Withey has observed, the demise of the old D'Oyly Carte was still fresh in people's minds, and "and any chances to see our old favourities were eagerly taken."

To those who saw the principals when they were with D'Oyly Carte, this performance may be a welcome bit of nostalgia. Taken on its own merits, the program is not much to write home about. There is very little movement. The thousand-strong chorus are not always together, and they sing with their noses buried in their scores. There are a number of instrumental flubs.

Peter Pratt is over twenty years removed from his D'Oyly Carte days and practically mails in his performance, but this is still welcome, as it's the only time he recorded any G&S on video. He's featured in just two numbers. The talented Patricia Leonard is reduced to a mere cameo. Vivian Tierney is wonderful as ever, given the limitations of the format. John Ayldon, mistakenly listed as Alan Ayldon in the credits, gives the most energetic performance of the lot, and there's the extra bonus of hearing him in a few selections that he never sang with D'Oyly Carte.

Geoffrey Shovelton's strength was always his acting; he never had a particularly beautiful singing voice, and in a concert setting, he comes across as particularly irritating, especially in roles (Frederic and Marco) that he never sang with D'Oyly Carte. "Take a pair of sparkling eyes" is excruciating. He is at is best in "A wand'ring minstrel."

The video begins with actors playing Gilbert and Sullivan arriving by horse-drawn carriage and being escorted to a private box in the Royal Albert Hall. After most numbers, the camera shows them applauding the performance and exchanging pleasantries. Their comments are mostly pedestrian (or "utter tripe," as Stephen Turnbull called them) and add nothing useful to the performance. Incidentally, the actor playing Gilbert, Peter Cellier, is a descendant of the Celliers, Alfred and François, who worked with Gilbert and Sullivan.

Taken as a whole, the video runs about an hour. I have to assume that the actual concert was longer, and these are merely the best parts. These humdrum excerpts don't exactly leave me wanting more.

The selections include:

"Pour, oh pour the Pirate sherry" (Ayldon as Samuel)
"Oh, is there not one maiden breast" (Shovelton)
"Poor wand'ring one" (Tierney)
"I am the very model" (Pratt)
"When a felon's not engaged in his employment" (Ayldon in Corcoran uniform with policeman hat)
"I am the Captain of the Pinafore" (Ayldon)
"When I was a lad" (Pratt)
"When Britain really ruled the waves" (Ayldon)
"Take a pair of sparkling eyes" (Shovelton dressed as Nanki-Poo)
"Once more Gondolieri" (Chorus)
The Mikado
"A wand'ring minstrel I" (Shovelton)
"The sun, whose rays" (Tierney)
"A more humane Mikado" (Ayldon)
Finale Act Two (Tutti)
The overture accompanies the credits
Issue History
1983? Beckmann Home Video PAL BMO008
1993 View Video VHS 1402
2001 View Video DVD [need number]