Savoy Society showcases Gilbert and Sullivan

Student theatre group celebrates 45th season

Gilbert and Sullivan's Yeoman of the Guard is both humorous and dark. / Photo Arvind Eyunni
Gilbert and Sullivan

By Julie Fortier

The day after the press review of The Yeomen of the Guard, Alexandra Fol is thrilled.

“It seems like a miracle has happened again,” says the conductor of the latest Gilbert and Sullivan operatic production presented by the McGill Savoy Society.

In her second stint as the Savoy Society’s conductor, Fol, who is currently completing her doctorate in composition at the Schulich School of Music, is most impressed by the dedication of the performers.

“In a professional setting, you have two rehearsals, a dress rehearsal and the performance. That’s it,” she said. “But the people who get involved with Savoy have a love for music and theatre that motivates them to come to three-hour rehearsals three times a week for three months.”

Now in its 45th season, the Savoy Society is one of McGill’s student theatre groups and has been devoted to staging works by composer Arthur Sullivan and librettist W.S. Gilbert. Their operas are credited with having heavily influenced the development of modern musical theatre. The group brings together people from all disciplines.

One such Savoyard is Josef Schmidt, 69, who retired last year as acting chair of McGill’s German Studies department. Schmidt has been involved with the Savoy Society for some 20 years, playing the flute in the orchestra and recruiting patrons.

“It allows me to live outside the box, to get to know the different kinds of people that make up McGill and contribute to the cultural life of our community,” Schmidt said.

This year’s Savoy production, The Yeomen of the Guard, is set in the Tower of London, during the 16th century, and is a darker and more emotionally engaging Gilbert and Sullivan opera. The libretto does contain considerable humour, but Gilbert’s trademark satire and topsy-turvy plot complications are subdued in comparison with other G&S works. As for the score, critics considered it Sullivan’s finest.

The Yeomen of the Guard opened on Feb. 12 at Moyse Hall and runs until Feb. 21. For more information, visit