Friday, 15 October 2010

Shelford Walsh: Two Short Anecdotes from his book Operatics.

I quote two anecdotes from a book by the opera coach, a certain Mr Shelford Walsh who may have hailed from Harrogate! His best known piece of writing is a book called “Operatics or How to Produce an Opera with numerous G&S anecdotes. It was published in 1903. Naturally what counted as great wit in those days would probably not raise more than a wry smile nowadays. However, the two anecdotes below are good examples of his humour. G&S enthusiasts will need no commentary on these stories.

One evening, after rehearsal, at a neighbouring hostelry the conversation turned upon the question as to which was the chef-d'ouvre of the Gilbert and Sullivan operas. After some discussion a gentleman who had imbibed rather freely, and who had listened to the expression of divers opinions, said, "Well, gentlemen, I think the two best of the Gilbert and Sullivan operas are ‘Pirates of the Guard’ and ‘Yeomen of Penzance.'" Like his drinks, a little bit mixed forsooth.

Cries from "the Gods" are sometimes most disconcerting. A policeman named Murphy had got into great disfavour in a town in which an amateur performance of "The Pirates of Penzance" was being given. He was like the constable who was said to have arrested "a pair of boots for being tight," as he was always running in some poor beggar for a trivial offence. When the gentleman impersonating the sergeant of police in the opera made his entry, accompanied by the stalwart members of the force, a local gallery wag shouted out, "Hallo! Murphy, who are you after now? "And yet the noble band of "Coppers" maintained that stolid expression which is required in the scene.
Shelford Walsh, Operatics, or How to produce and Opera, Littlebury Brothers, Liverpool, 1903 (with minor edits)

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