The plot of Haste to the Wedding is, in Gilbert's his own words, "a very free adaption" of Eugène Labiche and Marc-Michel's 1851 farce Le Chapeau de Paille d'Italie. Gilbert had adapted this French play in 1873 under the title The Wedding March, and later wanted to collaborate with Sullivan on a musical setting of the piece, but nothing came of the project. Eventually, Gilbert got George Grossmith, the Savoy's principal comedian, to compose the music. Haste to the Wedding opened on July 27, 1892.
1 Haste to the Wedding peut-être considéré comme un Flop musical
Génèse du musical
The Wedding March
On 15 November 1873, Gilbert's play The Wedding March debuted at the Court Theatre, written under his pseudonym F. Latour Tomline. It was a free adaptation of Eugène Marin Labiche's Un chapeau de paille d'Italie ("The Italian Straw Hat"). The play was first to have been called Hunting a Hat, but the title was changed to capitalise on the popularity of the wedding march from Wagner's Lohengrin. The name of the hero, Woodpecker Tapping, was taken from Thomas Moore's ballad, "The woodpecker tapping the hollow beech tree." The play ran for about 92 performances, until 3 March 1874, a good run for the time. On the play's success, Stedman notes: "Gilbert's adaptation is a model of how a French farce could be intelligently suited to the English stage.... It depended on split-second timing, on rapid intrusions and concealments, on frantically invented expedients and mistaken identities, and on the pursuit of a crucial object: a hat of Italian straw."
The Era commented that there was "enough fun... to make half-a-dozen ordinary farces." The piece was "one of Gilbert's most frequently played successes and brought him £2,500". He told the critic William Archer, in 1904, that he had written it in just a day and a half. The play was given as part of a benefit matinee at the Gaiety Theatre, London, on 4 December 1884 with a cast starring Lionel Brough and Lydia Thompson.
The idea of turning The Wedding March into an opera was on Gilbert's mind for many years. The project was mooted in 1876 as a successor to Trial by Jury. Arthur Sullivan would have composed the score, and the composer's brother Fred (Trial's Learned Judge) would have played the bridegroom, Woodpecker Tapping, but the opera didn't materialise, perhaps due to the illness that ultimately led to Fred's early death. The script of The Wedding March makes several references to an Irish song called "Haste to the Wedding", which became the title of the later version.
Creation of the opera; subsequent adaptation
By the 1890s, Gilbert's partnership with Sullivan had unravelled, and Gilbert had to find other partners. He wrote The Mountebanks with Alfred Cellier, and then turned to George Grossmith, the comic baritone of the Gilbert and Sullivan pieces from The Sorcerer (1877) through to The Yeomen of the Guard (1888). Grossmith had composed hundreds of songs and duets for his own private drawing-room entertainments, as well as a few short comic operas, but never a full-length work as ambitious as Haste to the Wedding.
By opening night, 27 July 1892, Gilbert was approaching a reconciliation with Sullivan, who was in attendance. Notable among the cast were Frank Wyatt as Woodpecker Tapping, veteran actor Lionel Brough (Pietro in The Mountebanks) as Maguire, and George Grossmith Jr., the composer's son, in his stage debut as Foodle. The opera was not a success, however, playing only 22 performances. Stedman suggests that the timing of the premiere in July, traditionally a slow season, worked against it.
Gänzl sums up the failure: "...the setting of the lyrics proved rather too much for Grossmith, whose musical talent, though tuneful and amusing, was definitely on the small scale. The songs added nothing to the play and indeed, by breaking down the plot and slowing the pell-mell pace of the action, exposed the improbability of the situations. After a first night which evoked some wrathful comments from a disappointed audience, Haste to the Wedding survived only twenty-two performances."
At Chichester (1975) and Exeter (1976), an adaptation was created using Gilbert's The Wedding March as a starting point, adding the lyrics and music from Haste to the Wedding, as well as additional original lyrics written to music adapted from Jacques Offenbach’s Barbe-Bleue. This piece was called The Italian Straw Hat and played strongly for limited seasons.
Liste des chansons
No.1. Patty and Jackson (Today, at eleven)
No.2. Woodpecker (Maria is simple and chaste)
No.3. Chorus and Maguire (Ring, ye joybells, long and loudly... You've kept us all waiting outside!)
No.4. Bella (By dreams of ample profit lured)
No.5. Bella and Woodpecker (I want a hat of finest straw)
No.6. Cripps and Maguire with Chorus (Gracious, how I have been running)
No.7. Duke (Oh butcher, oh baker, oh candlestick-maker)
No.8. Woodpecker and Marchioness (The slave of impulse I)
No.9. Maguire with Chorus (Now, Woodpecker!... Why, we're all making merry)
No.10. Finale: (Hurrah for the bride with a right good will)
No.11. Bunthunder (Though called upon I've never been)
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