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Gilbert & Sullivan: Yeomen Of The Guard / Drake, Cook, Hayes

Gilbert / Sullivan / Drake / Cook / Hayes
Release Date: 09/25/2012 
Label:  Video Artists International   Catalog #: 4553  
Composer:  Arthur Sullivan
Performer:  Muriel O’malleyMarjorie GordonHenry CalvinBill Hayes,   ... 
Conductor:  Franz Allers
Number of Discs: 1 
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Notes and Editorial Reviews

One of the most acclaimed musical productions in television history, this 1957 telecast of Gilbert and Sullivan’s Yeomen of the Guard features a starry cast led by Celeste Holm, Alfred Drake, Barbara Cook, Bill Hayes, and Henry Calvin. At the time of its airing, The New York Times praised the “opulent production... that was a joy to see and hear.” Alfred Drake was “ideal;” Celeste Holm’s performance was “rich in wit and wisdom;” Bill Hayes and Barbara Cook “were, respectively, handsome and beautiful to watch, and they, too, sang superbly.” Also contributing to the success of the telecast was the “masterful” direction by George Schaefer and Franz Allers’ “rich musical direction.” Special features include the commercials from the original Read more live telecast.
B&W, 4:3, 79 minutes, All regions

THE YEOMEN OF THE GUARD; or The Merryman and His Maid
Opera in Two Acts
Music by Arthur Sullivan
Libretto by W.S. Gilbert

Cast:
Jack Point: Alfred Drake
Phoebe Meryll: Celeste Holm
Colonel Fairfax: Bill Hayes
Elsie Maynard: Barbara Cook
Lieutenant Cholmondeley: Robert Wright
Wilfred Shadbolt: Henry Calvin
Sergeant Meryll: Norman Atkins
Dame Carruthers: Muriel O’Malley
Leonard Meryll: Norman Barrs
Kate: Marjorie Gordon

Musical Director: Franz Allers
Produced and Directed by George Schaefer
Live telecast, April 10, 1957

R E V I E W: 3643930.az_SULLIVAN_Yeomen_Guard_Franz.html

SULLIVAN The Yeomen of the Guard Franz Allers, cond; Alfred Drake (Jack Point); Celeste Holm (Phoebe Meryll); Bill Hayes (Colonel Fairfax); Barbara Cook (Elsie Maynard); Henry Calvin (Wilfred Shadbolt); Muriel O’Malley (Dame Carruthers); Norman Atkins (Sergeant Meryll); Robert Wright (Sir Richard Cholmondeley); Unnamed O VAI 4553 (DVD: 79: 00) Live: 4/10/1957


Television in the 1950s had its pleasures, and one of these was the occasional appearance on the three (originally four) national networks of Gilbert and Sullivan operas. This release documents a Hallmark Hall of Fame broadcast featuring a live performance of The Yeomen of the Guard. It was a curious and ambitious choice for the times. Yeomen has never been among the best known and loved of G&S works, and it is among the more complex and difficult to stage, as well as possessing an ending that’s grim, despite its celebratory music. There was also its dialog to consider. Television producers of the period were wedded to the laugh track, and since it couldn’t really be done well for a live production, the editorial scissors were wielded with vigor to get rid of humor considered flat without the appreciation of an audience. Musical cuts in turn were made to fit Yeomen within a 90-minute format (80 minutes, plus commercials, intro, credits, and time set aside for station identification and sponsors).


The cuts were done sensibly however. Brief but smartly written narration told by Jack Point replaced almost all of the initial exposition. Subsequent dialog was drastically shortened to concentrate on dramatic points, but with some slight leavening of the original wit. The greatest loss of music was in the chorus numbers, losing the frame of a characterful town, and making the opera more of an intimate affair—though also to be regretted were a missing verse from Elsie’s “Tis done, I am a bride,” two verses of Jack Point’s “Oh! A private buffoon,” and the final verse of “I have a song to sing, oh” in the second act finale. (Point survives, alone and dejected, in this Yeomen.) Traditional cuts of the period, such as “Rapture, rapture,” and “A laughing boy but yesterday,” were of course kept. Hallmark’s budget allowed for a cleverly constructed, multi-level set with plenty of access through windows and door frames, facilitating the primitive camera movement the live medium then allowed. There were also several big names in the production that couldn’t have come cheaply, even if they and their agents saw it as good publicity for their work on stage, film, and records. Clearly some time was set aside to practice the extensive bits of shared business, since there is a sense of ensemble.


Alfred Drake is the best thing in it, a carefully modulated performance of a privately brooding and publically cheerful jester. Celeste Holm offers up a nicely detailed flirt, but apparently had vocal problems that night. Longer musical phrases that end above the chest register occasionally lose their center of pitch. Barbara Cook’s agile, distinctively quicksilver soprano is deployed well, and her characterization is as troubled and sensitive as one could wish. Bill Hayes has the voice for Fairfax, though he sings far too much of the role at a single intensity, and doesn’t act. Muriel O’Malley’s registers are separate, and the transition is very apparent in the shift of colors, but her production is still solid and the sound, imperiously focused. Robert Wright makes a very fine Cholmondeley; Norman Atkins, a strong voice, but a poor actor. Finally, Henry Calvin is the biggest surprise. I’ve seen him in many Disney films and TV series (such as Zorro) of the period, revealing a fine character comic as a blunt, well-meaning but dumb figure. Yet I’m told he was in the original Broadway cast of Kismet as the Wazir (Drake had the lead), and here he shows a fine singing voice and manner in the Act I finale. Franz Allers (My Fair Lady, Camelot, Paint Your Wagon, all on Broadway) is energetic, and the unnamed orchestra he leads, disciplined and to-the-manner-born.


The camerawork focuses too much on close-ups, to the expected detriment of the cast who (with the exception of Drake) size their performances as though planned for the theater instead of television. Three cameras would appear to have been used on a sizable soundstage, with good pans and movement through and across the multilevel setting. The rare pitch problem from the live performers is a sign of an age when perfection wasn’t yet part of television.


Although videotaping was available at a professional level the year before this Yeomen was broadcast, the black and white kinescope was still the common means of preserving television content. This involved filming the show image on a monitor, synchronized to the latter’s scanning rate to filter out the quickly flickering lines of electronic transmission, onto a cathode ray tube. (The human eye usually can’t see these lines on televisions of the period, but cameras catch them right away.) There are a host of problems potentially associated with kinescope filming and reproduction—image ghosting, white and black banding, poor gradation at the light extremes, resolution issues, a compressed brightness range—but the good news is that little of this can be found to any significant extent in this Yeomen. The worst is a graininess in the resolution that only occasionally becomes severe enough to draw attention, but never interferes sufficiently to compromise the visuals. Contrast is good and image edging generally decent, though there’s very minor scratching and scuffing at times. Some curving of the visuals on the far right of the screen may be due to original misalignment of the image while filming. As nearly all the action occurs in the middle of the image, however, it doesn’t significantly impact the program. And face it: If you were looking for a visually perfect Yeomen, you wouldn’t be considering this 1957 abridged version. What it has is spirit, style, a sense of occasion, and strong performances by some legendary musical comedy stars that do it all up so well. Strongly recommended.


FANFARE: Barry Brenesal
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Works on This Recording

1.
Yeomen of the Guard by Arthur Sullivan
Performer:  Muriel O’malley (Voice), Marjorie Gordon (Voice), Henry Calvin (Voice),
Bill Hayes (Voice), Barbara Cook (Voice), Alfred Drake (Voice),
Celeste Holm (Voice), Robert Wright (Voice), Norman Atkins (Voice),
Norman Barrs (Voice)
Conductor:  Franz Allers
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1888; England 

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