I love the light comic operas of William Gilbert and Arthur Sullivan: the melodies are infectious and the librettos are hilarious, especially if you lived in fin de siecle London. Many of the characters are spoofs of people (usually politicians) who were in power at the time. My favorite is H.M.S. Pinafore, which contains my favorite number Now Give Three Cheers. This song I have sung countless times in the shower performing not just the captain’s part but all the rest as well.
A close second to the H.M.S. Pinafore is The Pirates of Penzance and during one of those bizarre wilfings I often do late at night and unsupervised (I was searching for Linda Rondstadt; don’t ask why) I came upon a segment of this opera, which led me to the bizarre selection that follows.
Take a look at this rap video. Watch it all the way through and note the language, not necessarily the vulgar language (which seems to be common to most rap songs), but the construction of the song, the libretto, if you will. Then imagine that William Gilbert, the librettist for the Gilbert and Sullivan operas had presented this libretto to Sullivan to set to music. This has been done by someone who is extremely creative and has a ton (no, two tons) of time on his hands.
First, the rap video, Baby Got Back, a famous one from the 90s:
Now the absolutely brilliant parody using footage from The Pirates of Penzance movie starring Kevin Kline, Rex Smith, and Linda Rondstat. Listen to the words and look at the coordination of the song. How much time must this have taken?
Once you’ve quit laughing if you want to watch the actual scene from the movie from which this parody was made, check it out here. If you’re not familiar with Gilbert and Sullivan, you’ll see what I mean about infectious melodies and clever lyrics. And you’ll see what a bang up job the guy did who put the parody together in keeping with the spirit of G & S. Plus it’s great fun to watch Kevin Kline do opera, even comic opera.
What if Gilbert and Sullivan had written rap…