Monday, May 14, 2012

My Operatic Career, Part 2

The next show, Gilbert & Sullivan's "The Mikado", was performed during my sophomore year in 1938. I played the role of Ko-Ko, the Lord High Executioner of the Town of Titipu, again the comic baritone lead. Contralto lead Darlene Selters played the ugly old bag Katisha whom I had to romance, otherwise I would be beheaded and/or boiled in oil.

Cast of The Mikado,  WHS, 1938 (author 5th from right - the tall guy)
This led to me singing the sorry song about the poor little birdy who committed suicide by drowning. It is my family's favorite since
they sweet-talked me into singing it at my 89th birthday party. It goes: "On a tree by the river a little Tom-tit, sang willow, tit willow, tit willow...." etc. etc. for six choruses ending with " echo arose from the suicide's grave; willow, tit willow, tit willow."

Pete Yancich again played the tenor lead as Nanki Poo, son of the Mikado of Japan, Leonard Krall. Pooh-Bah, the Lord High Everything Else, was Ed Hawks. Pish-Tush and Ping-Pong were Bob Curtis and Bob Brown. The "Three Little Maids from School Are We..." were Betty Geisler, Lydia Pitcher, and Frances Webster. The entire cast included 78 WHS students, many probably progenitors of current Watervliet Facebook fans.

The third Gilbert & Sullivan operetta was "Iolanthe," performed in the spring of 1939. I was the Lord High Chancellor, my most difficult role. In it I was required to sing the song "Love, unrequited..." that included nine stanzas of of four-line rapid patter starting with "When you're lying awake with a dismal headache and repose is tabooed by anxiety; I assume you may use any language you choose to indulge in without impropriety..." First problem was memorizing the damn thing, the second was to sing and breathe at the same time. I deliberately cracked my voice a couple times for comic effect. When I finished the audience applauded spontaneously. That had to be the high point of my operatic career.

"Iolanthe" was mostly about fairies, including Helen Jackson as the queen, Maxine Ray as Iolanthe, and fairies Natalie Smith, Lillian Muller, and Rose Koshar. Then there was the Sheperd Jim Palmer and the Shepherdess Helen Warsko. Others with prominent roles were John Palmer, Ed Hawks, Harvey Faram and Tony Sweeney. The entire company was only 64 students for this operetta.

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