The Beauty Stone


The Beauty Stone

"The Beauty Stone" is "an original romantic musical opera" in three acts, composed by Arthur Sullivan to a libretto by Arthur Wing Pinero and J. Comyns Carr. It premiered at the Savoy Theatre on May 28 1898, closing on July 16 1898 after a run of just 50 performances, making it the least successful of Sullivan's operas. In contrast, a number of very successful shows opened in London in 1898, including "The Belle of New York" (697 performances); "A Greek Slave" (349 performances); and "A Runaway Girl" (593 performances).

The cast included Savoy regulars Walter Passmore, Rosina Brandram, Ruth Vincent, Emmie Owen, and Henry Lytton. Some of the music is more challenging than the typical Savoy Opera. Two opera singers, including Covent Garden opera soprano Pauline Joran as Saida, were imported into the cast at increased salaries, and the size of the chorus was increased.

The opera was revived by the Carl Rosa Opera Company in 1901-02. It finally received a recording in 1983, which was remastered and released by Pearl in 2003. [ [http://www.concentric.net/~Oakapple/gasdisc/narrster-1970s.htm#prince_consort Information about the recording] ]

Background

When the Gilbert and Sullivan partnership ended for good after the disappointingly short run of "The Grand Duke" in 1896, Richard D'Oyly Carte needed new pieces to show at the Savoy Theatre. Sullivan had produced two operas for the Savoy in the 1890s with librettists other than W. S. Gilbert, but neither had proved particularly successful, and Carte's other new pieces for the Savoy in the 1890s also had not been successful.

Carte assembled a high quality team for "The Beauty Stone", hoping for a hit. J. Comyns Carr had earlier written the text for Henry Irving's grand production of the King Arthur legend for which Sullivan had provided the incidental music score in 1895. Sullivan had in the past considered the idea of an opera on the same subject and was pleased when Carr offered him a similarly romantic work with a medieval setting. Pinero (1855-1934) was at the height of his career in 1898, having produced his most enduring success, "The Second Mrs. Tanqueray" in 1893. One of the most important, prolific and popular British playwrights, Pinero was later knighted for his services to dramatic authorship.

"The Beauty Stone" was conceived as a musical drama different in style from the productions that had preceded it at the Savoy Theatre. Sullivan's intention was to create a work halfway between the romantic flights of his grand opera "Ivanhoe" and the familiar humour of the earlier Savoy operas. However, the Savoy was not the best place to produce such a drama. The Savoy audience wanted wit and humor, and to provide them with a new kind of theatre turned out to be a grave mistake. Moreover, competition from the new theatrical art form of George Edwardes-style musical comedy produced at other London theatres ) offered the Savoy audience. In addition, "The Beauty Stone" is a very long piece — it played for nearly four hours on opening night. Savoy Theatre audiences were not enthusiastic about the piece.

Roles

* Philip, Lord of Mirlemont (tenor)
* Guntran of Beaugrant (baritone)
* Simon Limal ("a Weaver") (baritone)
* Nicholas Dircks ("Burgomaster of Mirlemont") (bass-baritone)
* Peppin (a dwarf) (non-singing)
* A Seneschal (non-singing)
* A Lad of the Town (non-singing)
* Baldwyn of Ath (non-singing)
* The Lords of Sirault (tenor), Velaines (baritone), and St. Sauveur (bass)
* The Devil (baritone)
* Laine ("the Weaver's daughter")(soprano)
* Joan ("the Weaver's wife") (contralto)
* Jacqueline (mezzo-soprano)
* Loyse, from St. Denis (soprano)
* Isabeau, from Florennes (mezzo-soprano)
* Barbe, from Bovigny (mezzo-soprano)
* A Shrewish Girl (non-singing)
* A Matron (non-singing)
* Saida (soprano)

ynopsis

The story is laid in the Flemish town of Mirlemont in the beginning of the 15th century.

Act I

Scene 1

The scene takes place at the home of Simon Limal, a weaver. It is a sombre, wretched-looking dwelling. Simon and his wife, Joan, sing a duet about their dreary lives. Joan has sent their daughter, Laine, into the town to buy bread and draw water. Simon fears that Laine, who is ugly and crippled, will be mocked by the town folk.

On her way home, Laine is accosted by roughs, who try to force her to kiss a dwarf. They all burst into Simon's home. Laine's water pitcher is broken, but Jacqueline rescues her from further harm.

Philip, Lord of Mirlamont, has announced a beauty contest, which is to be held in the market-place later that day, and has drawn beautiful girls from many adjoining towns. Laine dreams of getting a close look at the gallant Philip and his companion, Saida, but her mother discourages her. When her parents leave, Laine sings a prayer to Mary: she wishes for beauty, so that she can experience love; otherwise, she wishes to die.

The Devil arrives, although she mistakes him for a holy friar. He offers his sympathy, and says that he has an answer to her prayers in the form of a magical stone that confers perfect beauty to anyone who wears it. Laine's parents return. Though initially surprised to find a stranger in their midst, they too believe that the Devil is a holy man. The Devil further explains the stone's magical powers. Simon eagerly accepts the stone and gives it to Laine, who goes to her chamber to put it on.

Joan fears that the stone may bring bad luck with it. The Devil explains that he has often given the stone away, but it always comes back. However, all of their doubts are overlooked when Laine re-enters, wondrously beautiful.

Scene 2

In the market-place of Mirlemont, the people of the town gather for the beauty contest. A competitor crowned with lillies enters with her supporters, but most of the townspeople doubt that she will win.

The Devil has a letter of introduction to Lord Philip, which he presents to Guntran, Philip's loyal friend. Guntran complains that Philip is distracted by the pursuit of beauty, and is not sufficiently attentive to warfare. The Devil comments that Mirlemont is a more "vastly interesting" place than he had expected. He recruits Jacqueline to serve as his page.

Philip and his entourage enter for the beauty contest. Several maidens vie for his attention, but he is not impressed with any of them. The Devil suggests that, as there is "so little beauty" in Mirlemont, the Prince should instead order the ugliest man, the dwarf Peppin, to marry the ugliest woman. Philip's aide suggests the weaver's daughter, Laine.

The chorus call for Laine, but when she enters, she is now transcendently beautiful. Philip is entranced, but the rest of the townsfolk suspect she is a witch. Philip is convinced that anyone so beautiful must be innocent, and he anoints her as fairest of the fair.

Act II

Scene 1

In a hall in Castle Mirlemont, Philip plays cards with a party of knights and ladies. A messenger from the Duke of Burgundy arrives, requesting Philip's presence in battle, but Philip refuses, saying that he is no longer a man of war.

Saida, Philip's former favourite, tells the Devil that Laine must be burned at the stake for witchcraft. The Devil advises her that she should instead try to learn for herself the mysterious secret behind Laine's sudden transformation. Saida dances for Philip. She briefly recaptures his attention, but he transfers it immediately to Laine when she enters, now richly dressed in fine robes.

Philip is enchanted by Laine's beauty. She explains that a holy man is responsible for the miracle, but her parents have forbidden her from saying any more. Philip insists that he loves her. She suspects that his attentions are fleeting, but says that she loves him in return.

Laine's parents, Simon and Joan, burst into the castle, seeking to join their daughter. The Devil tells Philip that he will get rid of them, and he leads them away. When Laine realizes what has happened, she begs to leave, but Philip locks the doors. Laine begs to be released, saying that she no longer wishes to be beautiful. Philip relents, and she rushes out. Encouraged by the Devil, Saida follows her, hoping to acquire Laine's magical beauty.

Kinghts en route to battle arrive at Philip's castle for a brief rest, but Philip refuses to greet them. Guntram is disgusted at Philip's lack of interest, recalling heroic deeds of Philip's youth. The knights urge Philip to join the battle, and when he refuses, Guntram resigns from his service. Realizing his error, Philip says that he will join the battle after all.

Scene 2

Back in the weaver's home, Joan and Simon have escaped the ruffians that chased them from Philip's castle. Laine returns. She is still in her rich clothes, but she has decided to relinquish the stone that has made her beautiful. She removes it from her neck, throws it on the ground, and hurries into her bed-chamber.

Joan and Simon debate what to do with the stone. Joan fears that it brings evil to those to wear it, but she puts the stone around Simon's neck. He is transformed into a handsome, younger man. Saida and the Devil arrive, looking for the stone. When they see Simon, the Devil realizes what has happened. He encourages Saida to seduce him, so that she may gain the stone for herself.

Scene 3

In an open field near the Gate of Mirlemont, the Devil interrogates Jacqueline, whom he has directed to spy on Simon and Saida. She says that she observed the two of them walking arm in arm in a meadow, with Saida trying desperately, but unsuccessfully, to coax the secret from him.

When Saida arrives, the Devil encourages her to take Simon to the castle and continue her seduction. while Simon and Saida are together, they encounter Joan and Laine, but he will have nothing to do with them.

To the sound of trumpets, Philip enters, dressed for battle. He announces that he has wearied of beauty, and is going to war. Joan and Laine beg Philip to intercede with Saida, whom they believe has abducted Simon. Philip dismisses their tale as gossip, and does not recognize Laine, who is once again ugly and crippled. The townsfolk raise Philip on their shoulders, and they go off to battle, leaving Laine trampled and senseless.

Act III

Scene 1

On a terrace in the castle, with the voice of Laine heard singing prayerfully in the distance, Saida enters with Simon. He is enchanted with her, but he is still unwilling to confess the secret. When he hears Laine singing again, he is overcome with guilt. A servant announces that Philip has been victorious in battle. Simon presumes that he will be expelled from the castle, but Saida promises to keep him there. At last, Simon tells her the secret of the stone.

The Devil enters with Jacqueline. He frets that Saida needs to extract the stone from Simon before Duke Philip returns. In the meantime, he orders Jacqueline to sing a song. When she admits that she is in love with him, he dismisses her from service, saying that she is no longer of any use.

Saida comes in and stands triumphantly facing the Devil, now restored to youthful beauty. After she sings a triumphant aria, Simon follows. She crassly orders him to leave, threatening him with a charge of witchcraft should he complain.

Philip and Guntran return from the war. Philip has fought heroically, but has lost his eyesight, and is now blind. Although Saida is now the most beautiful maid in Mirlemont, he is unable to see her. Laine's voice is heard once again outside, and Philip asks to speak with her. Saida worns that she is a cripple once again, but Philip replies that her soul is beautiful.

The defeated Saida throws the stone away, and the Devil picks it up, noting ruefully that the stone always comes back.

Scene 2

At the market-place, the townsfolk assemble once again to greet the victorious Philip. Simon, who is once again dressed in rags, is reunited with Joan. Jacqueline enters in a daze and runs into the Devil, who is once again dressed as a holy friar. She has no memory of her week of service to the Devil, and she asks for the friar's blessing.

Philip enters and announces that he has chosen Laine, "the humblest among you," as his betrothed. "Though heaven hath set a veil upon these eyes," he says, "love's one star...Shows clear the way that leads me to thy heart."

The Devil quits the town, fretting that his joke did not turn out as he had intended.

Musical numbers

;Act I
*Introduction;Scene 1
*No 1 - Click, clack - Duet - Simon and Joan
*No 2 - Hobble, hobble, and now we've caught her - Chorus
*No 2a - Maidens and men of Mirlemont town - Chorus
*No 3 - Dear Mary Mother - Prayer - Laine
*No 4 - Who stands within? - Quartet
*No 5 - Since it dwelt in that rock - Recit and Song - The Devil

;Scene 2
*No 6 - The bells are ringing o'er Mirlemont Town - Chorus
*No 7 - My Name is Crazy Jacqueline
*No 8 - Songs of the Competitors
*No 9 - Finale Act I

;Act II;Scene 1
*No 10 - With cards and dice - Chorus
*No 11 - Though she should dance - Scene with Eastern Maidens
*No 12 - I Love Thee - Duet - Laine and Philip
*No 13 - 'll tell them what thou wast - Sung by Laine, Saida, Philip, The Devil, Guntran, Three Lords, and Chorus of Men

;Scene 2
*No 14 - I would see a maid - Sung by Simon and Joan
*No 15 - Haste three! haste thee! - Sung by Simon, Joan, Saida, Laine, and The Devil

;Scene 3
*No 16 - There He Stands -- Finale Act II

;Act III;Scene 1
*No 17 Part 1- An hour agone 'twas the moon that shone - Sung by Laine
*No 17 Part 2 - The White Moon Lay on the Ruined Hay - Sung by Laine
*No 18 - Why dost thou sigh and moan? - Sung by Jacqueline
*No 19 - Mine, mine at last! - Sung by Saida
*Song - With roses red they crowned her head - Sung by Laine
*No 20 - So all is lost for ever! - Scena - Saida and the Devil

;Scene 2
*No 21 - O'er Mirlemont City the banners - Chorus and Dance
*No 22 - Hail to the lord of our land - Finale Act III

Notes

References

*Rowell, George, "Sullivan, Pinero, and The Beauty Stone" in the Sir Arthur Sullivan Society's magazine #21 (Autumn 1985).

External links

* [http://diamond.boisestate.edu/gas/other_sullivan/beauty_stone/beauty_stone_home.html "The Beauty Stone" at The Gilbert & Sullivan Archive]
* [http://www.concentric.net/~Oakapple/gasdisc/bs.htm "The Beauty Stone" at The Gilbert & Sullivan Discography]
* [http://www.nodanw.com/london_shows_chronology/1898.htm List of shows opening in London in 1898]
* [http://www.allclassical.com/cg/amg.dll?p=amg&sql=10:jqpzefyk3gfn Samples of the music]


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