Saturday, October 25, 2008

Considerably More 'Go'

In 1906, Florodora composer Leslie Stuart (right) was asked in an interview about being judged against the example of Gilbert and Sullivan. He said, "We living composers either imitate - unpardonable sin - or do not imitate - which is worse".

Florodora - having premiered in the same city and the same month as The Rose of Persia - would naturally be compared to Savoy Operas. Tom B. Davis, a Florodora producer, commented: "In some respects it may be said to resemble a Savoy Opera, but with all due respect to those really, in many cases beautiful creations, Florodora has considerably more 'go' than they have, whilst about its music, it has that peculiar charm that Stuart seems to have made so peculiarly his own".

By the time he composed Florodora 36-year-old Stuart (real name, Thomas Barrett) was already an established composer of popular song and contributor to musical comedies. In the British Empire he was famous as composer of the song Soldiers of the Queen (or King, depending...) and a large number of once popular but now entirely regrettable music hall "coon" songs.

Well aware that he lived and composed in the long shadow of a master, a portrait of Sullivan hung above the reed organ on which Stuart composed. His own compositions were more in the style of popular music and more 20th century rhythmic invention, utilizing more counterpoint, syncopation, layering, and an abundance of dotted meters in, on average, brighter, brisker tempi. In the biography "Leslie Stuart - The Man Who Composed Florodora" Andrew Lamb writes:

Altogether, Leslie Stuart was surely more adventurous than Sullivan in the way he set out to create effects, even if those effects did not always succeed in the way that Sullivan's painstaking settings of his lyricists words did.

No comments:

Post a Comment