GILBERT & SULLIVAN OPERAS
THE D'OYLY CARTE OPERA COMPANY
Thursday, April 11, 1935
MR. DANA PORTER: Ladies and Gentlemen, we welcome today, the D'Oyly Carte Opera Company and their manager, Mr. Frank Hobbs, who have recently played in New York City on an engagement for one month but which was extended to four months. (Applause.) Gilbert and Sullivan Operas have at last captured New York. The amazing thing about Gilbert and Sullivan is that it seems to have qualities of eternal interest. ff you saw "The Mikado" as staged in recent performances you would realize that music which was written in the 19th century is even more enhanced by 18th century scenery and it is perhaps more appreciated than ever by 20th century audiences. (Applause.)
Although this company retains most faithfully all the traditions of the original company that played these operas, nevertheless, as we welcome the new members of the cast-new member% leading stars, who were not with us on the last occasion when this company visited Toronto-we see that some new personalities are injected into these roles. They are still faithful but they are new. I have much pleasure in introducing the following mem bers of the company. At my left, Miss Marjorie Eyre. (applause); Miss Kathleen Frances, (applause); Miss Elizabeth Nickell-Lean, (applause); Mr. John Dean, (applause); Mr. Charles Goulding, (applause); Mr. Sydney Granville, (applause); Mr. Martyn Green, (applause); Mr. Leslie Rands, (applause); Mr. Frank Stewart, (applause); Mr. Richard Walker, (applause); Mr. Isidore Godfrey, (applause); Mr. Harry Arnold, (applause) and Mr. Alan Ward, (applause.)
Before the members of this company entertain us with a few selections which they have most generously consented to do, I shall introduce Mr. Frank Hobbs, the manager of this company, who will speak on their behalf. (Applause.)
MR. FRANK HOBBS: Mr. President, ladies and gentlemen, I gather from your very warm applause we are not strangers to you. It would be rather funny if we were because this is the third time you have honored us by malting us your guests here. On each occasion everybody thoroughly enjoyed themselves except the individual who has to address you. (Laughter.) I can speak for
I am it on each occasion. (Laughter.) The knowledge that we are not forgotten was proved by a very pleasant gesture from a member of your executive who sent us a letter. Three years ago the head office in London received a letter saying that it was reported in the Toronto papers that we were contemplating another visit to Toronto and might they have the pleasure of entertaining the company during that visit and would we fix ,a date and let them know in due course.
We are very proud to be here because I know you have had many, many guests, many speakers and many outstanding personalities. We are proud to have been paid so great a compliment. I might also say that it is a great compliment to the company to see the big gathering here today. In my few remarks, I am going to use the word $we' very often and you must take that in the sense that it applies to the company. I am not setting out as a manager to try and boost the company. You have shown that you know them too well by the marvellous attendance at the theatre and the generous applause on this present occasion.
When addressing the Empire Club one feels that the subject should be one which is related in some way to Empire. I am given to understand that I need not adhere too closely to that, which I think is a very good thing because you must have many eloquent speakers on that subject. I think possibly it would be of interest to know something about the visit of the D'Qyly Carte - I think I may say your D'Oyly Carte Company to the United States. (Applause.) I say your D'Oyly Carte Company because we are a British unit-wholly British throughout. (Applause.) British in manufacture, in composers, in personnel of the company-we are British throughout, even the clothes we wear are British so far as we know. (Laughter.) We brought a British product to America which they had had before, but not quite that British brand. It was with a great deal of diffidence that we went to New York. The New York theatre prides itself as living on the crest of the wave. Anything as old as Gilbert and Sullivan opera which had been before the public for 50 years-well it was very questionable for New Yorkers who live 24 hours to the day. We had been wanting to go to New York but we could not just walk in and give a play. Fortunately for us, Mr. Beck of New York was in Britain in the early part of last year. He was willing to waste an afternoon seeing one of our performances. He would have come the next night if he had not had to sail. He went straight to the London office and said, "I want your company any time in New York. If it is not a success I will get out of the theatrical business." Well„ his words meant something. It was a great responsibility to move a company of 56 people with scenery for ten operas and costumes across the Atlantic. One thing we wanted to do particularly was to achieve an artistic success for Mr. Carte was an idealist. With these operas it was not so much the box office appeal, which is very necessary for our people have to be fed, but it was the artistic success he was interested in. That is the way we met with a great triumph in New York. We were all trembling on the opening night. I will never forget it. The house was absolutely packed. Before the night was over we were just almost swept out of the theatre by the tremendous enthusiasm. You cannot imagine the pride of the company and myself that this British Company went over there and gave them Gilbert and Sullivan, which they had seen for so many years, in a way they had never had in the United States before. It was the biggest compliment they could have paid, for they gave the impression they had never had Gilbert and Sullivan in the United States before. They could not pay a higher compliment than that. (Applause.) Now, I hope you feel proud of us. (Laughter and applause.) We were entertained right throughout and,, speaking of our visit to the United States we can only speak of it in a very pleasant way. The people showed us the greatest kindness, courtesy and hospitality everywhere. We were entertained by some of the leading clubs in New York and entertained by very distinguished people down there. One Sunday night we were entertained - I will tell you of rather a unique incident - we were entertained at the Lotus Club in New York which has been in existence for many years. When Gilbert and Sullivan were in New York 50 years ago they entertained Gilbert and Sullivan and thought it would be a very good idea to entertain the Gilbert and Sullivan Company 50 years later. We had a marvellous night together. Amongst the speakers Professor William Lyons Phelps of Harvard University and Walter Damarosch. I cannot repeat what these two eloquent speakers said. I should simply blush. But that was the spirit we met everywhere in the United States.
There is also another angle which I think is of interest to you. That was the contacts we had with British Government officials throughout the States. We were official ambassadors for Britain wherever we went. We were marvellously received and the British consuls made sure we were introduced all round. They said, `You are doing splendid work for us. You're doing very well. We will sit back and take the credit.' (Laughter.) As a matter of fact the British ambassador at Washington who entertained us said, `Your company has done marvellous work for us in the States. I cannot explain what it is but you have. I thank you very much.' (Applause.) Before I came along here I tried to collect a copy of a letter written by William Lyon Phelps to the press in the United States. It went round the whole circle of papers. He spoke most eloquently upon the fact of this British Company being in the States entertaining. Of course, we as ambassadors were in a very happy position of giving pleasure. He became a great friend of ours and entertained us at the house. He was also a very amusing speaker. I found most of the American speakers whom I listened to were out to catch the laughs. In fact we found the people throughout the whole of the States liked to laugh. If you can make them laugh you can have anything they have to give you. Our ambition was to make them laugh and forget what was going on outside. They entertained our people until 4 a.m. and I began to wonder how long the company was going to stand the pace. But there is something about the New York air which lets you live 20 out of the 24 hours. The other four you can just rest a little. (Laughter.)
We very nearly got into international complications when we were there through no fault of our own. We were in Philadelphia and just leaving for New York. The day we were leaving there a letter was published. I won't read the whole letter, I will just read a little part. It went on to say how much the opera had been enjoyed. I may say just at this time Washington had decided what they would do about gold. This is the last paragraph of the letter. `If there were a way to keep them on this side permanently, I humbly suggest that the New Deal cancels Britain's war debt in exchange for the D'Oyly Carte.' (Applause and laughter.)
I am sorry our full cast are not able to be present today. You have shown so much hospitality that it is really remarkable so many are here. The others would loved to have been here but were prevented. We are going to try and give just a few musical numbers. They won't all be from operas because these are ensemble parts which require a chorus or three or four people to play. I am going to ask Mr. Godfrey to takeover. I think he will take the musical program and anything I can do to help him, I will be only too pleased. (Applause.)
(Several members of the company took part in an enjoyable musical program which was climaxed by a number of stories told in the Yorkshire dialect by Mr. John Dean.)