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The Sunday Opera: Sir Arthur Sullivan Double: "The Beauty Stone" & "The Sorcerer"

There’ll be two works by Sir Arthur Sullivan on this week’s Sunday Opera (1/9 3:00 p.m.), and, as they might say in Philadelphia, “One wit and one without” (Sir W.S. Gilbert that is).  The first is a work from 1898 that Sullivan wrote with Arthur Wing Pinero and J. Comyns Carr entitled “The Beauty Stone.”  Set in the 15th century Flemish town of Mirlemont, the story centers on Laine, the crippled daughter of the weaver Simon Limal and his wife Joan.   Laine is in love with the local lord, Philip, but because of her condition, she realizes that she has no chance with him because Philip is only in love with beauty, especially his current companion, Saida.   Laine prays to the Virgin Mary to make her beautiful so that she can experience love.   However, a monk appears and offers her a solution: The Beauty Stone of the title.   Laine takes it, puts it on a chain around her neck, and is instantly transformed into a beauty who catches Philip’s eye much to the chagrin of Saida. Philip eventually takes Laine to his castle and makes advances towards her after having her parents beaten and driven away, and Laine, realizes that being beautiful is not anything like she imagined, and she manages to escape.   Once home, she relinquishes the stone and becomes her real self only to have her father take it and put it on causing yet another series of misfortunes orchestrated by the monk who is the Devil in disguise.   The production does end happily with Laine and Philip together, but you’ll just have to listen to see how they get there. 

The cast on this 2014 recording includes Elin Manahan Thomas, Catherine Wyn-Rogers, Madeleine Shaw, Rebecca Evans, Toby Spence, David Stout, Stephen Gadd, Richard Stuart, and Alan Opie who are joined by The BBC National Chorus and Orchestra of Wales with Rory Macdonald conducting.  

Our second opera is “wit” Gilbert, and it’s “The Sorcerer,” an equally unknown work from 1877.  In this one, the young Baronet believes that everyone should love whom they like regardless of class or rank, and he hires a local Sorcerer to concoct a love potion that will make people instantly fall in love with the first person they see with disastrous consequences, and, like Laine in “Beauty Stone,” the young Baronet realizes that it is far better for nature to take its course and for people to love whom they fall in love with naturally. 

This cast from 1966 includes Valerie Masterson, Christene Palmer, Jean Allister, Ann Hood, Donald Adams, David Palmer, Stanley Riley, and John Reed with the D’Oyly Carte Opera Chorus and the Philharmonic Orchestra with Isidore Godfrey conducting.

Michael is program host and host of the WWFM Sunday Opera, Sundays at 3 pm, and co-host of The Dress Circle, Sundays at 7 pm.