Isidore Godfrey conducts the members of the D'Oyly Carte Opera Company in this 1951 version of Iolanthe (without the spoken dialogue). The performance features many of the D'Oyly Carte stars of the mid century, including Martyn Green, Leonard Osborn, Alan Styler, and Anne Drummond-Grant in portrayals they had honed on-stage. The recording was supervised by Bridget D'Oyly Carte, so it can be certain that the performance practice (for better or for worse) can be traced to the work's origins. For an operetta about fairies, the performance seems somewhat heavy and ponderous, due perhaps to a combination of Sullivan's orchestration, Godfrey's limitations as a conductor, and the lumpish sound quality. That overall consistent heaviness undercuts a central conceit of the operetta, the contrast between the worlds of the fairies and that of the members of Parliament. The set is filled out with a suite from Pineapple Poll, a ballet that Charles Mackerras constructed using a variety of Sullivan's music, with the arranger conducting the Sadler's Wells Orchestra. Mackerras' orchestrations are frequently more felicitous and effective than Sullivan's originals. It's a lively and exuberant piece, especially entertaining for Gilbert and Sullivan fans who can have fun identifying the excerpts, and it's given a sparkling performance here.
The sound quality is adequate for a recording of this vintage, if a little remote. The solos are generally clearly verbally comprehensible, but the recording technology makes the choruses tend to sound thick and fuzzy, which is unfortunate, since it's possible to discern very fine choral performances in spite of the audio quality.