Iolanthe Character Descriptions and Vocal Ranges

C4 is middle C; numbered octaves go up from C to B

The Lord Chancellor: Middle-aged. Has more depth than the typical G&S comic baritone. Conscientious about his work, but willing to temper (and tamper with) the law for the sake of justice. Has a keen eye for the ladies, but not a dirty old man. When he learns his wife is still alive, he reverts to being very much a one-woman man. Three featured solos, including the famous Nightmare Song, and much comic dialog. Great operatic singing not necessary, but good diction a must. Baritone, G2 to E4.

George, Earl of Mountararat: Is a peer by accident of birth, not by virtue of brains. Philosophical about his lack of brilliance; horrified at the idea of recruiting the House of Lords from persons of intellect. A mock-patriotic song, lots of solo and ensemble work, and one of the best comic dialog scenes in all G&S. Baritone, A2 to E4.

Thomas, Earl Tolloller: Similar to George, but with perhaps a bit more snobbery and a bit less self-awareness. One great solo and some ensemble work; shares a great dialog scene with George. Tenor, D3 to A4.

Private Willis: The classic British sentry, in scarlet coat and high bearskin hat. Brings a workingman’s common sense to political matters. Appears only in Act 2; opens that act with a show-stopping solo and carries the bottom line in a quartet. Bass, Ab2 (optional Eb2) to D4.

Strephon: Stated age 24. Romantic and impetuous. In love with Phyllis; very fond of his mother Iolanthe and very affectionate with her – which leads Phyllis and the peers to think he is unfaithful. Two duets with Phyllis (one ballad, one up-tempo); solo and ensemble lines in several numbers. Lyric baritone, G2 to G4.

The Fairy Queen: A larger-than-life personality; must dominate the stage. Benevolent and maternal, but believes the fairy law must be taken seriously. Not to be underestimated or messed with by mere mortals, especially mortal men. One romantic song, plus important solo lines in several numbers. Contralto, G3 to Eb5.

Iolanthe: Stated apparent age 17. A warm and loving fairy, the favorite of all her sisters. Very affectionate with her son Strephon, which leads to misunderstandings. Willing to sacrifice her life for the sake of her son’s happiness. A relatively small but pivotal part; must convey depth of emotion in her Act 2 solo. Mezzo, C4 to Gb5.

Celia: A confident fairy, willing to take charge in the Queen’s absence (but in a nice way). Several solo and dialog lines. Soprano, C#4 to G5; also sings with chorus.

Leila: A dreamy-eyed and flirtatious fairy. Several solo and dialog lines. Mezzo, C4 to E5; also sings with chorus.

Fleta: A young fairy, enthusiastic but somewhat naïve. A few lines of dialog; sings with chorus.

Phyllis: Stated age 19. Romantic and mercurial. In love with Strephon, but ready to abandon him at the first sign of trouble. Not above playing one peer against another. Two duets with Strephon (one ballad, one up-tempo); solo and ensemble lines in several numbers. Lyric soprano, A3 to A5.

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