“Search throughout the panorama
for a sign of royal Gama,
who to-day should cross the water
with his fascinating daughter.
Ida is her name.”
Princess Ida or Castle Adamant
March 18 to April 4, 1993
|Stage Director:||Donna Carroll|
|Music Director:||Carolyn Davies|
|Artistic Director:||Wendy Evans|
Gilbert described Princess Ida as a “respectful operatic perversion of Tennyson’s The Princess.” “Perversion” seems an apt description, but “respectful” stretches the truth somewhat. In his epic Poem, Tennyson creates an elegant, enlightened parable that urges its readers to reassess the lowly status of Victorian women. His treatment of the topic was foresighted and sympathetic. Gilbert, in his turn, entered into the fray with characteristic gusto, parodying the idea of higher education for women with decidedly unsympathetic relish. In its time, it represented a backlash against the tremendous societal upheaval feared as an outcome of the feminist movement. Seen through 1990’s eyes, however, the finished product is a glaring example of politically incorrect theater.
But the show has much to redeem it in its lush score. Many critics argue that Ida’s score contains some of Sullivan’s finest work, approaching grand opera in its harmonies and scope. And there are indeed great chunks of the libretto which display that marvelous Gilbertian wit and sparkle. Other portions, however, strike me as petty and, dare I say, adolescent? I have, accordingly, chosen to frame Gilbert’s story within a modern context and present the show through the eyes of an adolescent girl. We can forgive Ida her lapses of judgment because hers is an outlook still in its development. And despite the intervening 100 years, where women are concerned, our society is in many ways still in its adolescence, as well.
Two excellent internet resources for information about Princess Ida: