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Original Gilbert And Sullivan Company Reborn

April 29, 1988

SUNDERLAND, England (AP) _ The New D’Oyly Carte Opera Company was launched on the stage, performing the comic Gilbert and Sullivan operas that made the founding company famous for 107 years.

The new company opened a 10-day run Thursday at the Empire Theater in the northeast England industrial town of Sunderland with a preview of ″Iolanthe,″ which drew five minutes of applause. ″The Yeomen of the Guard″ will follow next Wednesday.

″I thought it went splendidly and I hope to see us touring the United States and Canada before very long,″ said Richard Condon, the company’s general manager.

The critics will be at tonight’s gala relaunch.

″The red-hot night is Friday,″ said theater manager Colin Angus. ″My experience teaches me that you have to have a warm-up preview to get everything right. If you go in cold, the chances always are that it will go wrong.″

Fans of librettist Sir William S. Gilbert and composer Sir Arthur Sullivan said the production style was a big improvement on the original company’s last years, when it was condemned as ″old and tired″ by the state-funded Arts Council. The company folded in 1982 for lack of money when it was refused a subsidy.

The ″Iolanthe″ plot - ludicrous like all the Gilbert and Sullivan works - mocks the law and the unelected House of Lords in Parliament, as well as the English fancy for putting on robes, wigs, coronets and velvet knee breeches, by involving the Lord Chancellor and his fellow peers with the Fairy Queen and her followers.

″The pure Englishness - not even Britishness - of Gilbert and Sullivan makes their work difficult for a foreigner like me,″ said the only American in the 103-member company, New York-born Tom Emlyn Williams, who sings tenor and baritone.

″Some of the Gilbert rhymes can only be understood by English people. The operettas have been translated, though I can hardly believe it,″ he said.

Canadian soprano Patricia Cameron from Halifax, Nova Scotia, said the only problems she encountered were with the fairy wings.

″Some didn’t arrive, some wouldn’t stand straight and some fell off,″ she said.

″I felt the long history of the company was a bit of pressure on us to do well,″ Miss Cameron added.

The new company has an office in London but no home. Angus has offered his ornate theater, completed in 1907, as a permanent touring base.

Condon said the two operas for the relaunch have meant an investment of about $1.3 million.

The company was reborn on a bequest from the estate of the founder’s granddaughter, Dame Bridget D’Oyly Carte, who died in 1985, plus commercial sponsorship and donations from supporters worldwide.

Richard D’Oyly Carte, a Victorian impresario, started the company in 1875 to stage the operettas and built London’s Savoy Hotel and Savoy Theater from the proceeds.

Gilbert and Sullivan collaborated on 14 works over 25 years, including ″The Pirates of Penzance,″ ″The Mikado″ and ″H.M.S. Pinafore.″

Other companies, professional and amateur, perform the Savoy Operas, as the works are known. But the D’Oyly Carte company is the only one devoted entirely to them.

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