Derby Day (light opera)

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Derby Day is a 1932 three-act light opera, with music composed by Alfred Reynolds to a libretto by A. P. Herbert. Herbert wrote his text between March and May 1931, whilst on a trip to Australia, during the first run of his successful Tantivy Towers.[1]

One contemporary review described the work as "mainly a Cockney opera", and praised the work as "topical in the best sense" and said of the music:[1]

I do not know if Mr. Reynolds is himself a Cockney, but I do know that his Cockney music, particularly in the coster scenes, is the best that has ever been written.[1]

In particular, the song for the tipster, "'Oo wants a winner for the big race tomorrer?", has been singled out for particular praise as a musical expression of the Cockney.[2]

Original production[edit]

The first performance took place at the Lyric Theatre, Hammersmith on 24 February 1932.[3] The director was Nigel Playfair, and the production was designed by George Sheringham.[4] Alfred Reynolds was the conductor.[5] The original cast list was as follows:[4]

  • Scott Russell as John Bitter (landlord of the Old Black Horse)
  • Tessa Deane as Rose (a barmaid)
  • Leslie French as Bert Bones (a tipster)
  • Mabel Constanduros as Mrs Bones (his mother)
  • Frederic Austin as Sir Horace Waters, J.P. (a race-horse owner) in his last stage appearance
  • Mabel Sealby as Lady Waters (his wife)
  • Dewey Gibson as Eddy (their son)
  • Guelda Waller as a Gypsy Woman
  • Dewey Gibson as a Bookmaker
  • John Thompson as a Policeman
  • Pamela Stanley in a walk-on role, making her stage début.

Synopsis[edit]

The story is set in the present day (the early 1930s), and centres on a day at the Epsom Derby, the major horse-racing event of the year. In Act III, Mr Bitter proposes to Mrs Bones.

Broadcasts[edit]

The BBC broadcast an abridged radio version of the work in 1934.[6] It was also broadcast twice in 1937, on Derby Day itself and two days later on the day the Oaks was run.[5]

Derby Day was shown in a 40-minute broadcast on BBC television in July 1937, with a cast including George Baker as Mr. Bitter and Frederick Ranalow (who had appeared in the Playfair/Austin production of The Beggar's Opera) as Waters.[5] It was broadcast again in June 1938 with Muriel George and Esmond Knight, and Baker and Ranalow swapping roles.

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c Dunhill, Thomas F., "The Music of Derby Day" (1 May 1932). The Musical Times, 73 (1071): pp. 415-416.
  2. ^ Lubbock, Mark, "The Music of 'Musicals'" (September 1957). The Musical Times, 98 (1375): pp. 483-485.
  3. ^ Traubner, Richard: Operetta: a theatrical history Routledge, 2003 ISBN 978-0-415-96641-2 (p. 355)
  4. ^ a b Gänzl, Kurt: British Musical Theatre, vol. 2 (1915-1984), Oxford: OUP, 1987 ISBN 0-19-520509-X (pp. 364-369)
  5. ^ a b c Radio Times Television Supplement, 2 July 1937. London: BBC Publications [1]
  6. ^ "Audax" (pseudonym), "Wireless Notes" (July 1934). The Musical Times, 75 (1097): pp. 613-615.

External links[edit]