Henry Etzkowitz and Chunyan Zhou
Lamplighter’s Champagne Gala and Auction , created a virtual time machine taking forward the company’s satirical mission into its own culture, completely fulfilling its mission: to be the premier interpreter of the works of Gilbert and Sullivan and other works of comparable wit, literacy, and musical merit.
San Francisco’s Lamplighter’s Music Theatre brings to life the classic Victorian era light operas satirizing British culture and class foibles, and annually hosts a public fund raiser for the enterprise. Typically, the group takes the opportunity of this special occasion to infuse Gilbert and Sullivan’s music into a contemporary art form. This year, Lamplighter Music Theatre adopted a contemporary take on the Edwardian era, “Downton Abbey” as the vehicle of choice, bringing Mary Poppins into the scene. There was a time machine that worked going both forward and in reverse through the decades, bringing at one and the same time, a contemporary view of the Edwardian era with its strict class division as a lens for Gilbert and Sullivan’s less rigid take on the class divides of their era, in comparison to the strict division of the contemporary Downton duality in “Downton AirBNB”. Moving from traditional rural to modern life with high-tech products and concepts – cell phone, iPad, laptop, and Internet, AirBNB, Twitter, and Instagram. Downton AirBNB focuses on the change to the householdt staff and the owners of the great house in England, well familiar to public television viewers. As usual, the Lamplighters costume team does a wonderful job. Traditional long dresses and modern alternatives are used to distinguish between the different eras. The combination of the large screen of the rear stage and the layout of the front stage greatly enhanced the sense of realism in space and the sense of distance in time. The use of a drone added a lot of fun and modernity to the work. A servant woman who once liked to smoke changed her hobbies and began to be fascinated by interpersonal communication. A young girl who looked like a fool when she saw the modern way of life, finally mastered the drone control technology and enjoyed the surrealistic foibles of life in 2019!
With respect to music, the most impressive were the harmony pieces – mixed duos, female duets, or male duets. The chorus pieces were also great, of course. All the performers are serious and joyful. The director skillfully uses the voice characteristics of different actors.
There is the voice of the old Countess that is low and honest, reflecting her experience. Of course, there is still a bit of turbidity reflecting the vicissitudes of the years. The new generation of young people is blossoming and sounded bright and hopeful. The aristocratic women in the court looked noble and calm, and sounded soft and lovely. The voice of the servants reflected obedience and respect, and sounded very comfortable and pleasing to the aristocratic, if not the revolutionary ear.
The prelude to performance was a silent auction, with various donated spirits, vacations, artwork jewelry and other donated items placed for open bid. The bespoke spirits attracted the most interest and some of the high-end vacation and artwork, the least. In between Acts, in what is for some supporters the highlight of the occasion, an old fashioned, public auction, with professional patter by Steven Godfryd from Pacific Auction Company, who steals the show. In a demonstration of community feeling for the troupe, it was not the sale of objects and services, but the raising of funds without exchange, for costume renewal of a renowned production that attracted the most enthusiasm. Not only lots of applause, but over a $20,000 donation in total!
Princess Ida Upcoming
We look forward with anticipation to the Lamplighters next production, Princess Ida, that will apparently continue their new tradition of updating the Classic duo’s commentary on the issues of their age. This work, originally satirized feminism, education of women,and evolution. Indeed, these issues do not seem very different form the issues of our own time. Nevertheless, as the production announcement continues, “In this year with so many women running for President, it will be fun to see what Gilbert and Sullivan and Lamplighters will create together on these, oh, so timely topics.” Indeed It will!
Photos: Lucas Buxman and Joe Giammarco
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