Now located in Carlisle,
the Savoyard Light Opera Company has proximate roots reaching back over 35 years to
Maynard, and deeper roots reaching back to London, where the first Gilbert & Sullivan
collaboration, Thespis, was produced in 1871. The present Company started in 1971,
when a group of Maynard townspeople undertook a production of H.M.S. Pinafore as
part of that town's centennial celebration. It was a great success and so much fun for the
participants that they undertook annual productions of Gilbert & Sullivan operettas,
thus initiating a tradition.
By 1980, with ten annual
productions to its credit, the group formally incorporated as the Maynard Savoyards,
drawing their name from the fact that the fourteen works written by Gilbert & Sullivan
are known as the Savoy Operas after the operahouse built by Richard D'Oyly Carte for these
charming and timeless musicals. The Savoy Theatre (next to the Savoy Hotel, both named for
Savoy Manor which once stood on the site) on the Strand in London was destroyed by fire a
few years ago. Happily the theatre was rebuilt and opened again in 1993, where a recently
revivified D'Oyly Carte Opera Company performs from time to time.
Altogether, the Savoyard Light
Opera Company has produced eleven of the G&S operettas, many of them more than once,
omitting three (Thespis, Utopia Limited, and Grand Duke), each of which
present difficulties that to most fans of G&S do not repay the effort of production.
In 1983 the Board changed the
name from the Maynard Savoyards to the Savoyard Light Opera Company, recognizing the fact
that they derive their players and audiences not only from the Maynard area but from all
of eastern Massachusetts, and anticipating the possibility that the group might wish to
depart from the strict canon of G&S operettas, thus infusing new blood and new musical
versatility and attracting new audience members.
The anticipated departure did
not actually occur until 1990, with the production of Little Mary Sunshine. A new
plan - to alternate year by year G&S productions with other musicals chosen because
their wit and musicality measure up to the standards set by Gilbert & Sullivan - was
initiated in 1993 with Lerner & Loewe's My Fair Lady. The company has since
performed The New Moon, The Most Happy Fella, Of Thee I Sing, Kiss
Me Kate, The Secret Garden, Camelot, and most recently Anything Goes.
The Company espouses the
ambition to produce shows of a near professional quality, featuring a full orchestra.
Auditions are required of all singers, including chorus, and the Company has been
fortunate in attracting some of the best talent in the area. It's tradition for excellence
extends back over 35 years here in Massachusetts and, perhaps it is not too much to say,
through 135 years to the masters who created so much joyful poetry and music.
-- Philip Drew