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Confessions of a Compulsive Collector, Part II

October, 2002

I last left at the point that the entire old D'Oyly Carte electric series was out on CDs, two of the earlier acoustics, none of the mono LP versions, and all of the stereos (some with dialogue), including at last "Utopia, Ltd." and "The Grand Duke."

For those interested, the sets without any dialogue contained for the most part every note of music. There were some exceptions. Only the acoustic "Princess Ida" contained Lady Blanche's only solo but omits the second stanza of Hilarion's "Whom thou hast chained." The electric and mono LP "Ruddigore" do not contain "The Battle's Roar is Over," while the mono LP "Yeomen" omits a stanza in the Act I finale and the comic duet "Rapture, Rapture" in Act II. And there are minor cuts in "Utopia" and "Grand Duke."

At any rate, I was pretty much assured that I now possessed everything on CD that was possessable. When lo! there appeared a recording of the original version of "Ruddygore" (even with the original spelling) that was not particularly well sung by the Sadlers Wells group but which did offer all sorts of passages Gilbert and Sullivan had dropped after the less than spectacular opening night. There also appeared an "HMS Pinafore," without dialogue but the three alternate Finales to Act II and a very different Sir Joseph Porter interpretation. So what I hoped would be the start of a new series stopped there. Still, I now had some feeling that it was all over and I had on CDs and on tapes (which I hoped someday to transfer or obtain on CDs) all the complete G&S that was out there.

No way! With the demise of the old D'Oyly Carte Company, the New one got started and out came a whole slew of new recordings on the Sony label. After building a new CD case for my collection, I looked into this series. None of them had any dialogue but some offered "bonuses" of varying degrees of attractiveness. "The Mikado" restored some missing stanzas to the comic love duet in Act I; "Iolanthe" restored Strephon's Act II solo about social conditions; "Pirates" restored a repeat of the "What never" gag from "Pinafore"; while "Yeomen" added an appendix containing the original setting to "Is Life a Boon?" and the "lost" solos for Wilfred and Sgt. Meryll. "The Gondoliers" offered just the score, but a very lively reading indeed.

On the Philips label was a "Yeomen" with dialogue; but someone stupidly decided to abridge it as if Gilbert's words were not worth preserving in toto. I added that to my shelf and sat back to catch my breath. But No! Telarc records began to issue complete (without dialogue) sets with the Welsh National Opera under Charles Mckerras: a "Mikado" on a single CD (minus Overture, a stanza of "Little List" and a few bars from the Act I Finale), "Pirates on a single CD (minus the overture), and "Yeomen/Trial by Jury" on two CDs). Fine. Good. So be it. Add another shelf and keep going.

Then joy of joys, a chap named Jim Lockwood who runs a little recording company (transferring company would be more accurate) out in California – he calls it cleverly enough 78s2CD – began to issue all of the ancient acoustics including the long elusive 1917 "Mikado" and later on all of the electric sets. Completeness at last! Now if someone would only issue the "Martyn Green" sets on CD.

As it turns out, Pearl Records began to do so; but I held off since they were fairly pricey. Not long after, Naxos began to make them available at something like $8 per CD; and now I have "Pinafore," "Pirates/Trial by Jury," "Gondoliers," and "Mikado" from those mono LPs. When they offer "Patience," "Ruddigore," "Iolanthe," and "Yeomen" (with Green), and "Princess Ida" and "Sorcerer" (with Peter Pratt), that much will be complete.

Of course, there are some old D'Oyly Carte stereo LPs that were never issued on LP (the "Pirates" with Pratt, for example, and the second "Yeomen" and "Gondoliers") – but even I have to cry, "Hold, Enough" after a while.

What concerns me is WHYI have this mania for completeness. True, I use these recordings in my lectures on G&S and should have all available interpretations. But will anyone really ever insist I play some obscure contralto's rendition of Katisha's Act II lament? And what about the abridged sets put out by Columbia and then by HMV? RCA Victor back in the mid-1900s? And what about the Al Goodman highlight sets (which I actually have on LP and 45 rpm formats)? Where does it end?

And if it does end, will a compulsive complete-collection collector be happy? Or will he cry that there are no more lands to conquer? When I reach that point, I will let you know. In the meanwhile, may these two essays serve some purpose to psychiatrists all over the world who may be asking the same questions.

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