1/9/08

From Scholastic Trammels Free

Since I'm taking J-Term off to hopefully regain a state of good health, I've had a quite a bit of time to fill. I've been doing so in the past week by hanging out at operetta rehearsals. It is a Saint Michael's tradition for the upper school (grades 7-12) to perform a Gilbert & Sullivan operetta every January, this year's being the Mikado. I participated in five of them (Sorcerer, Gondoliers, Patience, Ruddigore, Yeomen) in my SMA years, but this is the first time I've had a chance to watch one of the productions. Considering it's not a voluntary affair (which means even the kids who would normally be "too cool" for theater have to don tights, wigs and facepaint and twist their tongues around Gilbert's tricky lyrics), it's not bad at all. This is the first time I've heard the Mikado (except for Three Little Maids, which practically everyone knows), and it's definitely funny, but probably the most politically incorrect G&S I've encountered. The directors found it necessary to expurgate several instances of the n-word, rewriting some lyrics in the process. My question for you, dear readers: is it right to engage in clandestine editing of an author's work to render it palatable to modern audiences? Should there be an "official" expurgated G&S? Should it be left as-is for authenticity? I am undecided, though I think especially for a high school performance it would be inappropriate to leave such an offensive word in the lyrics. Ponder, ponder.

I leave you with one of the fun new words I've learned from Mr. Gilbert:

persiflage |ˈpərsəˌflä zh |
noun formal
light and slightly contemptuous mockery or banter.
ORIGIN mid 18th cent.: from French persifler ‘to banter,’ based on siffler ‘to whistle.’