The Plot

Gilbert & Sullivan's Iolanthe

Act 1

Into an Arcadian landscape on the banks of the Thames burst a band of fairies who lament the fact that they are unable to enjoy themselves since their queen banished their sister Iolanthe for marrying a mortal 25 years ago, the punishment for which should have been death. Their Queen appears and without much coercion, for she too misses Iolanthe, agrees to pardon her. Iolanthe, whodespite her age still appears to be 17, rises from the depths of the river where she has spent quarter of a century in order that she can be near her son Strephon, an Arcadian poet who appears to the consternation of the fairies. When the fairies see that he is harmless they cluster around him and discover that he is a fairy to his waist but his lower half is mortal. The Queen decides that his semi fairyhood will make him an excellent Member of Parliament and after some discussion they bid him goodbye. Phyllis, a Ward in Chancery, with whom Strephon is in love dances on with a reprise of Strephon's opening song and they sing a delightful duet plighting their troth and depart to make their wedding arrangements.

A fanfare announces the arrival of Members of the House of Lords who have come to enjoy a day in the country hoping to meet Phyllis with whom they are all infatuated. The Lord Chancellor arrives and tells of his guardianship of Wards of Chancery and summons Phyllis to inform her which of these noble Lords she will wed. The Earl of Mountararat brings in Phyllis and he and the Earl of Tolloller sing her praises. Phyllis however will not be turned and informs their Lordships that wealth and rank hold no attraction. Tolloller urges her not to reject them and she finally admits that her heart is given to Strephon who comes to claim her. The peers are miffed and leave Strephon alone to plead with the Lord Chancellor. The Lord Chancellor sings of his life as a barrister and tells Strephon that he may not wed Phyllis.

The Lord Chancellor leaves a dejected Strephon to tell his mother Iolanthe of his loss. Iolanthe and Strephon sing of their love for one another but are overheard by Phyllis and the peers who assume that he is conducting and affair with a 17 year old! Phyllis is horrified and confronts Strephon who tries to explain that Iolanthe is his mother. She is not convinced and rejects him and pledges that she will marry one of the Lords but does not mind which. Strephon will not be spurned and summons the fairies who appear with and ask how they can help him. Strephon explains the situation and the fairies and peers bicker about the truth. The Lord Chancellor interjects whilst the shocked fairies urge their Queen to stand fast. The Queen informs the Lord Chancellor that he is addressing a highly influential fairy and announces that Strephon will stand for Parliament. She then tells the peers of the dire fate that awaits them and the Act closes with a rousing double chorus between peers and fairies and confused Phyllis being helped from the scene by Tolloller and Mountararat.

Act 2

Opens in the Lord Chancellor's apartments with sergeant Willis of the Palace of Westminster Police singing of his amusement at the antics of the Houses of Parliament. He stands sentry at the door which opens to fairies and peers telling of Strephon success as an M.P. The fairies try to placate their Lordships but Mountararat will not be mollified and sings a rousing anthem of the greatness of the House of Lords. The fairies are most taken with the peers but the peers depart with ruffled feathers. The Queen is shocked that her band have fallen for these mortals and sings her regard for but rejection of sergeant Willis who still stands sentry. The fairies all depart and Phyllis appears to bemoan her fate.

Tolloller and Mountararat join her to decide which of them should be her husband but having debated the subject decide that their mutual friendship will not allow them to make the choice. All, including Willis, depart and the Lord Chancellor, in Disarray, appears to sing his nightmare song at the end of which he collapses in exhausted. He is resuscitated by Tolloller and Mountararat who urge him to press his suit with Phyllis, with whom he is smitten, and who is the cause of his nightmare. They dance off as Strephon, much changed since his entry to Parliament, appears to sing of his elation and despair. He is found by Phyllis who declares that she is still in love with him and when he explains that is mother is a fairy is convinced that he is honourable and that they must marry immediately.

Iolanthe appears to embrace her soon to be daughter-in-law and the two lovers ask her to intercede with the Lord Chancellor. She reveals her shocking secret that the Lord Chancellor is none other than her long-lost husband and Strephon's father and they leave to hide as the Lord Chancellor appears to announce to the world in general that he has decided to marry Phyllis after all. Iolanthe cannot allow this and pleads with the Lord Chancellor for her son. She reveals her true identity whilst the fairy band try to prevent her from doing so from behind the scenes. Once she has uttered the fateful words the fairies surround her and the fairy Queen prepares to kill her but is stopped by the rest of the fairy band who declare that they all must die as well because they have married the peers! The Queen, to save herself, asks sergeant Willis to marry her and he agrees allowing the company to depart happily for fairy land.

See: Iolanthe on Youtube

2013 Reviews

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"My husband and I came to see Iolanthe last night. It was our first to a local theatre group.

We were absolutely enthralled by the quality of the performance.  Everything exceeded any expectations we may have had.  The acting, the appropriate casting, the singing, the acting, the choreography, and the music were all superb.  It was an incredible and very polished production   I did not want it to end.  Highlights for me were, the peers walking in line towards the audience singing 'We are peers...",  the solo of Sergeant Willis, and the interaction between him and the Queen of the Fairies - hilarious, ditto the Lord Chancellor - brilliant performance.  You were all just so good.

That theatre works very well, and as we were sitting close to the front, we got a feeling of closeness to the action.

Well done!"

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"Dear Chris

Just to congratulate you on and say how very, very much Richard and I enjoyed your production last Wednesday evening.

We thought it all absolutely excellent  from the programme, scenery and costumes to the hugely enjoyable singing, choreography and musical accompaniment.

We'll be at the next production!"

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Listen to the MPO team's interview with Cat Paterson on Abbey 104.7, Sherborne's new radio station.

Milborne Port Opera scoops two major awards for "Iolanthe"

Milborne Port, Somerset, 11 March 2014. Milborne Port Opera has won two major awards, against stiff opposition from companies from all over Somerset, in the annual David Beach Awards for musical theatre, presented at an awards dinner at Taunton Cricket Club on 8th March, by the Somerset Fellowship of Drama (SFD).

Milborne Port Opera were nominated by a panel of experts for 3 awards, and won two – Best Chorus, and the David Beach Challenge Trophy, for the way in which they so cleverly transform the Village Hall into a theatre.  Both awards were for Milborne Port's last show "Iolanthe" by Gilbert & Sullivan, produced by Chris Bailward, directed by Naomi Booth, with Peter Mumford as musical director.

Chris Bailward commented " We are delighted to win 2 out of 3 awards, against stiff competition. They confirm our ability as choral singers and performers and our commitment to providing great entertainment for our audiences".

The Cast

Solo Parts Description 1992 1999 2013
The Lord Chancellor Keith GearyJohn ForrestMark Blackham
Earl of Mountarat David MacTierNicholas GrundyAndrew Armstrong
Earl of Tolloller Geoff AllanAndrew ArmstrongJames Craw
Sergeant Willis Ron WilliamsDavid MacTierFred Fred Mcloughlin
Strephon Neil MorseTristan PyeTony White
Queen of the Faries Linda MumfordLinda MumfordSarah Bignell
Iolanthe Janet AllanVikki PyeGemma Kiddle
Celia Penny AshtonSusan WalesSteph Kiddle
Lelia Susan WalesSarah Fraser
Fleta Chris AshtonNaomi ThorpSally McConnell
Phyllis Myfanwy BremberJessie CopperJessie Copper


Photos 1992

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Photos 1999

Opera Photo Opera Photo

Photos 2013

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The Music

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'Fold your flapping wings' was removed from vocal scores, but is sometimes reinstated - midi - noteworthy