Librettist W. S. Gilbert and composer Arthur Sullivan wrote fourteen comic operas together, the best-known being H. M. S. Pinafore, The Pirates of Penzance, and The Mikado. Their music is so ubiquitous that even someone who has never seen any of them (e.g. me) is familiar with the songs, and can usually tell when a song was written by them. A number of comedic actors have had parts in their productions, and their melodies have been used in commercials and have been parodied by Allan Sherman and others.
The two songs I’ve chosen are both from The Mikado and both are performed by comedians. The first is “Willow, Tit-Willow,” sung by Groucho Marx, from a performance on The Bell Telephone Hour in 1960. Groucho was reportedly so fond of Gilbert and Sullivan’s music he would inflict it on dinner guests.
The second is “I’ve Got A Little List,” sung by Eric Idle, in a performance for Thames Television in 1987. Parts One and Two of this performance are on YouTube.
Gilbert & Sullivan, your Two for Tuesday, September 29, 2015.
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