REVIVAL OF NATIVE GRAND OPERA.
Punch, August 31, 1904
Dear Mr. Punch,—Always on the lookout for long-felt wants, I have noticed signs of public feeling on the subject of English Opera. If England wants opera, I am the man to supply it. Please find enclosed certain samples.
Your obedient servant,
I.—My Medical Opera.
The opening scene of the drama is laid on the terrace in front of the ancestral castle of his Grace the Duke of Penge. As the curtain rises, the entire domestic staff of the castle, together with all the gardeners but one, and a number of guests, are discovered singing, having evidently suspended work en masse for the purpose. The subject of their song is the missing gardener. Why has he not joined their merry throng? Once his reedy tenor was the mainstay of these choral celebrations. Now he walks apart, moody and silent. They repeat—why is it? But soft—he comes. “ ’Tis he—young Rupert. But why so sad?” He bursts into song:
My friends, there are maids and to spare
On the face of this globular planet,
But none are so neat, so astoundingly sweet,
As his Grace’s fair child Lady Janet.
And I love her. Nay more, she loves me.
To some it may scarce appear seemly.
It’s presumption, alas! in a man of my class,
Still, we worship each other extremely.
And if Marquis or Earl drop a card on her,
She feels that their rank has but jarred on her;
From the earliest date
She has known that her fate
Is to marry a poor under-gardener.
And I trust that you will not be hard on her
For loving a poor under-gardener;
My face and my form
Simply took her by storm;
She couldn’t resist me. So pardon her.
After which he goes on to explain that marriage is at present impossible, owing to the fact that the Duke, if he knew, would disapprove. Hence his melancholy. The Duke and the Duchess, accompanied by their deliriously beautiful daughter, now appear, and after some spirited dialogue go off (l), Lady Janet remaining to join Rupert in a duet, which is overheard by the villain of the piece, one Lord Jasper Murgleshaw, a most unpleasant man. As he himself is a suitor for the hand of Lady Janet, the duet, couched as it is in the most impassioned terms, has no small significance for him. Rupert now goes off (r) to resume his horticultural duties, and Janet renders a sentimental number. Re-enter Lord Jasper. He reveals the fact that he has overheard all, but promises, on condition that Janet will accept his bi-weekly proposal of marriage (now due), not to let the matter go any further. Otherwise, he says, conscience will compel him to reveal everything to the Duke. Dared to do so by Janet, he obligingly gives her away in a vindictive solo. Rupert, returning at this juncture, clasps Janet to his bosom, and prepares for the worst. The worst happens. The Duchess begins to sing:
Oh, man of spuds and flowers,
With thoughts your rank above,
Why waste your working hours
In hopeless dreams of love?
In vain within the minster
His book the vicar scans;
To you my child’s a spinster,
For I forbid the banns.
To which Rupert—
Nay, pardon us, your Graces,
’Twere idle to deny
We should have known our places,
Her ladyship and I.
A gardener of gumption
Should fly at lowlier game;
Still, pardon my presumption,
And bless us all the same.
Then the Duke has his say:
I think on due reflection,
Considering who you are,
You let your young affection
Go very much too far.
The salient point to touch on,
Your blood is far from blue;
’Twould tarnish our escutcheon
Were she to marry you.
All is apparently over, when Janet puts the matter from her point of view:
Nay, father, hear your daughter.
Your heart, I’m much afraid,
Of bricks and stone and mortar
Must certainly be made.
Love is the only mentor
On whose advice I lean.
You give us your consent or
I’m off to Gretna Green.
A scene of indescribable confusion follows. Everybody present sings the melody, choosing his or her own words. Janet is extracted from Rupert’s arms, and retreats in disgrace, and at the most interesting point of the whole discussion the curtain falls. End of Act One.
Act Two takes place in the drawing-room of the Duke’s Park Lane residence. Rupert, it appears, received a month’s pay in lieu of warning at an early date of the proceedings, and vanished with it into the unknown, while Jasper is engaged to Janet, and the wedding is to be celebrated within a week. A knocking is heard at the front door, and shortly afterwards a gentleman is announced.
And now we come to the more strictly medical part of the opera. The gentleman is a celebrated doctor. It seems that the Duke has fallen ill. A habit of drinking only one bottle of port after dinner, instead of the three prescribed by his medical adviser, has induced anæmia, and his life is despaired of. But at the last minute a distinguished-looking but mysterious stranger is shown in. It is Rupert, disguised in a pasteboard nose, a red beard, and large blue spectacles. He desires to see the Duke. There is a brief interval, and then the door opens once more, and Rupert re-enters, the Duke leaning on his arm, practically recovered. The Duke explains his remarkable recovery in the following song:—
Just now the doctors gave me up
I was so very ill;
In vain I quaffed the bitter cup,
And gulped the azure pill.
Transfusion of blood was my only hope!
I sighed with resignation;
For I couldn’t see who was likely to
Submit to the operation.
No, he could not see
Who on earth would agree
To submit to the operation.
My frame was reduced to bones and skin,
I felt extremely weak,
And when they showed this gentleman in
I hadn’t the strength to speak.
Consider then my surprise and joy,
When I heard him say “I’ll chance it;
Ye shrewd M.D.’s, step this way, please,
And kindly bring your lancet.”
With a fortitude rarely, if e’er, surpassed,
The process he endured,
Till, to put it briefly, I found at last
That I was completely cured.
And, by the way (for we ought to pay
Rewards to those who serve us),
Come, name your fee: whatever it be,
I’ll grant it: don’t be nervous.
Chorus. All fears eschew,
Your fee is due,
So ask it: don’t be nervous.
Rupert snatches off his disguise, explains to the Duke that, owing to lucky ventures on the Stock Exchange, he is now a wealthy man, points out that as the same blood runs in their veins they are practically equals, obtains from him a courteous consent, and clasps Janet to his bosom. Jasper, re-entering at the moment, recoils in anguish, and marries a housemaid. Finale, rendered by the Duke:
Go, ring the bells of the local church
In a rollicking sort of way.
For the nearest clergyman up and search,
He shall marry you off to-day.
Yes, as soon as he can shall the clergyman
Proceed to make you one in law.
It’s settled quite. (To rest) The gent on my right
Is my excellent future son-in-law.
Chorus (amazed). Your son-in-law?
Duke (decidedly). My son-in-law!
My excellent future son-in-law.
And I’d like to suggest that he’s one of the best
Duke. My future son-in-law.
[Quick Curtain, followed by deafening calls for the Author.
Unsigned article and verse as printed; credited to P. G. Wodehouse in the Index to Vol. 127 of Punch.