We all want to feel that when we die we will leave behind something of ourselves, something that will outlast our own short lives on this earth. Something that says "I was here!"
Imagine how Sophocles would feel to visit 21st century America and see high school students working on Antigone, or how Shakespeare would feel seeing how many different ways there are to interpret Romeo and Juliet.
What would the founding fathers think of the endless debates over the meaning of the Constitution and what those same founding fathers meant by their words...but still debating them 200+ years after they all shuffled off this mortal coil.
The Big 3 in music--Bach, Beethoven and Brahms--are still being played world-wide.
Arthur S. Sullivan wanted to be remembered for his serious music. He looked on his work with William S. Gilbert and frivolous and something to pay the bills while he worked on what he felt would be his masterpieces, like his only serious opera, Ivanhoe. But other than Onward Christian Soldiers, his serious work has pretty much faded into obscurity. (And not many people know that Onward Christian Soldiers was written by Sullivan.)
William S. Gilbert was a successful dramatist, librettist, poet and illustrator long before he was thrown together with Arthur Sullivan in a collaboration that neither wanted. Some people are familiar with his self-illustrated Bab Ballads, but by and large, there is little outside of the comic operas that he wrote with Sullivan that has survived with any sort of popularity today.
Yet despite the contentious nature of their collaboration, their fifteen operettas are the works which have moved into the "beloved" category and are as well known in some circles today as they were when they were written in the late 1800s.
Today we went back to Presentation Theatre, my old stomping grounds for so many years. The Lamplighters was doing a double bill, G&S's one actTrial by Jury paired with Engaged, a play by W.S. Gilbert.
Engaged had been cut from a 3 act play down to about 90 minutes and was presented as a one-act with two brief time-outs where intermissions would have been in the full production. It was funny, and it certainly foreshadowed a lot of things that would appear in future operettas, but I sure wouldn't want to see it more than once.
When I think of how many times I've seen HMS Pinafore! And yet it still is enjoyable on the 20th or 30th viewing. Engaged is one of those plays where you think "OK--I've seen it now. Let's move on."
There were a few problems that made it seem tedious, despite the excellent performances. For one thing, some idiot had turned on the HEAT in the theater and it was absolutely stifling (I suspect that it was set to come on automatically and whoever had the power and the keys to turn it off was not even there). We were seated upstairs, where the heat goes when it rises. At one point I looked around me and saw easily 6 people who were snoozing. (This was after I had jerked awake myself).
Not only was the heat on, but the furnace made banging sounds as it sent that unwanted heat into the theater.
And then I don't know if it was noticeable downstairs, but upstairs there was a high-pitched whine/hum sort of sound as if somebody's hearing aid was turned up too high, only it went on and on and on throughout the entire first act.
What a change when Trial by Jury began, the pace picked up and the orchestra was there. It was like "family day" in the Lamplighters, with The Judge being played by Jonathan Spencer, while his wife and stepdaughter were in the chorus. Jim & Judy were also in the chorus (I've known them since before they started dating), along with daughter Brenna and her husband, Brenna wearing Judy's old costume from many years ago and her husband wearing Jim's old costume.
It was fun abeing back at Presentation again (the building that houses the theatre has been significantly redesigned, making it impossible to do big shows there any more, because the backstage area and the dressing room area is completely gone now)But as we left the theatre, I wondered with Sir Arthur and Sir William would think knowing that more than 100 years after they first wrote Trial By Jury, people were still flocking to see it...and I had to look up the name of Sullivan's magnum opus (Ivanhoe) because it has faded into obscurity, and people in the theatre dozed through Engaged.