Words by W.S. Gilbert and Music by Arthur Sullivan
The Palace Theatre,
April 1939
Cast List
King Hildebrand
Florian (a)
Florian (b)
King Gama
Guron (a)
Guron (b)
Scynthius (a)
Scynthius (b)
Princess Ida (a)
Princess Ida (b)
Lady Blanche (a)
Lady Blanche (b)
Lady Psyche (a)
Lady Psyche (b)
Melissa (a)
Melissa (b)

Notes on this performance

16. Princes Ida

Another new home…

The Committee was keen to ‘break new ground’ this season and recommended to the AGM that either Princess Ida or Utopia Ltd should be performed. Surprisingly, the members displayed little knowledge of either opera and consequently voted that the Committee should make the decision – hence, Princess Ida was selected.

Although the last performance at the Guildhall had been a success, there had been complaints relating to the difficulty in hearing clearly in parts of the auditorium, so the Chairman and Secretary were instructed to meet with the managers of both the Grand and the Palace Theatres to negotiate favourable terms. The Grand Theatre did not respond but the Palace quoted £175 for a week’s hire and the terms were accepted – the theatre was situated in Above Bar Street close to the present day entrance to West Quay. It meant that the Society would have performed in four different venues in the past four years.

Meanwhile, four SAOS members (Gladys Cleave, Eva Thorne, Alfred Warren and Alfred Tomalin) were invited to audition for a new BBC programme, Songs from the Amateur Stage; Miss Thorne was selected and duly performed on the radio. Mr Mitchell researched Princess Ida by watching two professional performances (expenses paid by SAOS) and decided that he would not need all of the ladies’ chorus on stage in all three acts, so they were to be split into appropriate groups – graduates, courtiers, etc.. Mr Andrews, still the MD, was requested to keep the number of encores to a minimum as the show was very long.

Princess Ida was again double-cast and both line-ups received very good reviews in the Echo, ‘It was a musicianly rendering, with good balance between chorus and orchestra, and, on the whole, splendid tone,’ but it did not sell as well as expected and it was thought that ‘the international situation prevailing in April was largely responsible.’ The show lost £87 3s 10d (£87.39) leaving £142 in the bank – to their great credit, the members still agreed to donate £25 to their nominated charity, The Royal South Hants and Southampton Centenary Appeal Fund.

The next AGM took place in July and it was decided that The Pirates of Penzance would definitely not be performed at the Guildhall. However, plans were put aside when war was declared on 3rd September - the Palace Theatre was virtually demolished in the Blitz of 1940 and was eventually pulled down in 1955. 

The group was determined to continue in some form and decided to meet for rehearsals regularly – there were 23 women and 14 men still available with 7 men on active service.  A production was unlikely but they could still entertain the troops and a group, complete with orchestra, performed Trial by Jury at Netley Hospital in May, 1940.  Several concerts were also held involving SAOS members as well as social evenings and even the occasional committee meeting!

Terry O'Farrell

Photo of Hildebrand and Gama

Alfred J Tomalin (King Hildebrand) with George W Mitchell (King Gama)

 LB books dog

Hopefully coming to you in early 2021!