Season: Autumn 1997
Director's Notes:I was recently asked, why do Princess Ida today? As a satire on the issue of women's education, is it not politically incorrect, and horribly dated as well?
Princess Ida is not truly a satire of women's education. The operetta was based on an epic poem by Tennyson, and is first and foremost a spoof of that poem. Within the show, the satire is free-floating and good-natured. Everyone gets mocked in Princess Ida: women, men, royalty, Darwin, the military. Arac's songs are parodies of Handel, and the character of King Gama is based on Gilbert himself.
The few moments in the show which are not meant to be funny belong to Ida herself. With all the zaniness around her, Ida is treated quite seriously. Her songs are beautiful, operatic, inspiring, and moving. She is an admirable person — but she is an extremist. She believes that women cannot achieve their true potential unless they separate completely from men. This issue is at the heart of Princess Ida and of Tennyson's poem: not the question of women's education, but the problem of balance in relationships between the sexes. How do married couples manage two careers? How much does each partner have to give up to stay connected to the other? These are the questions raised for our generation by Ida's story. Unfortunately, Princess Ida won't answer these questions — but will provide a pleasant, tuneful space of time for meditating on them.
Photos by Katherine M. O'Donnell
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Last updated: 02/10/10