Eine Kleine Nichtmusik

Witty and pertinent observations on matters of great significance OR Incoherent jottings on total irrelevancies OR Something else altogether OR All of the above

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Schrodinger's Gondola

Went to see the Edinburgh Gilbert & Sullivan Society's production of The Gondoliers on Thursday. I knew most of the orchestra (my wife among them) and at least one of the chorus. The principals were mostly the usual suspects: Ian Lawson as the Duke of Plaza Tora, Barbara Brodie as the Duchess, Sandy Horsburgh as Don Alhambra, Neil French as Luiz and Fiona Main as Gianetta were all very good. However, I was most impressed by the new kid on the block, Amanda Stewart as Casilda. Her voice is quite light but her diction and acting are both excellent, and I look forward to seeing her in further principal roles.

The Gondoliers is best known these days for a few musical numbers: "Take A Pair of Sparkling Eyes"and "Dance a Cachucha", along with a few lines from Don Alhambra's songs "Of that there is no shadow of doubt/ No probable possible manner of doubt/ No possible doubt whatever" and "When everybody's somebody, then no-one's anybody". But as I watched the plot unfold, with its pair of gondoliers, one of whom is heir to a crown and betrothed from childhood to a Spanish noblewoman - the problem being that nobody is quite sure which one it is- I thought how very far ahead of his time Gilbert was. As well as all the fun he has with the two gondoliers running a court on highly egalitarian lines, he also makes considerable play of the fact that they share the crown and the betrothal for now because nobody knows which is the rightful heir, but when the knowledgeable nursemaid turns up all will become clear: one will be a king, the other a commoner, one the husband of Casilda, the other free to marry his own choice. And I thought of Schrodinger's cat, half alive and half dead until someone looks to see how it is, when it becomes either dead or alive. Marco and Giuseppe are in a quantum superposition of states, in which they remain until the nursemaid arrives to collapse their wave-function and resolve everything nicely. And Gilbert managed this before quantum mechanics had been invented. Imagine the fun he would have had with relativity and quantum physics to work into his plots. He'd have been writing The Hitch-Hiker's Guide To The Galaxy, or The Lass Who Loved a Vogon.

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