TINA Oakes is shocked (Letters, May 27) that the word “opera” should be ascribed to the works of Gilbert and Sullivan with which comedian Les Dennis is involved. In the arts world there is, among some, an air of exclusivity which can be observed from the criticisms of Jack Vettriano’s popular paintings and the world of opera is no different. The dictionary tells us that the word "opera" is a theatrical piece with the story told through music and singing, the quality of which is another matter altogether.

Arthur Sullivan was in no doubt that his compositions came under the heading of operetta or light opera. With Gilbert’s comedic and witty libretto, their operettas have always been hugely popular. This of course is anathema to critics with esoteric knowledge of whatever genre they specialise in and anything associated with hoi polloi should be treated with some disdain and indeed, if I may quote a line uttered by Pooh-Bah from the Mikado or The Town of Titipu, “ I am, in point of fact, a particularly haughty and exclusive person….”.

Alan M Morris, Blanefield.

* TINA Oakes claims to be shocked at the works of Gilbert and Sullivan being described as “operas”. Well, that is how they were described by their creators, by their promoter Richard D’Oyly Carte and by press and critics at the time. I suppose “operettas” could be suggested as a possible categorisation; but the critic Gervase Hughes, in a landmark study of Sullivan’s music, wrote (quoting from memory): "To relate his achievements to those of Mozart would be ridiculous, and comparison with late Verdi would not redound to his advantage; but thanks to Sullivan’s resource and facility, the Savoy operas belong to the world of Cosi Fan Tutte and Falstaff, not to that of Orpheus in the Underworld and The Merry Widow.”

Sullivan in his lifetime was recognised as England’s leading composer, and a perfectly serious case can be made for regarding his operas with Gilbert (which, little as he liked to admit the fact, contain most of his best work) as collectively the peak of late-Victorian England’s musical achievement. The fact that many of us know them only from amateur productions, which of course vary in standard from excellent to atrocious, should not colour our judgement of the operas themselves.

Derrick McClure, Aberdeen.

* TINA Oakes expresses her shock that Les Dennis is now involved in HMS Pinafore – an opera written by Gilbert and Sullivan in 1878. And of course the opera, as well as their other 13 operas, were always written, composed and referred to as operas – not "comic operas", a phrase which was never used by the Victorian couple. I presume that Mr Dennis will be playing the role of the First Lord of the Admiralty, Sir Joseph Porter, which will showcase his wonderful acting, and, I am sure, singing ability to its very best.

In your own article about Les Dennis (“Issue of the day: Les Dennis turns to opera”, The Herald, May 26) you mentioned the various people who had appeared in drama or musicals, perhaps away from their comfort zones. Rikki Fulton actually played the wonderful comic role of the Lord Chancellor for Scottish Opera in Iolanthe (and was superb), and Frankie Howerd played Sir Joseph Porter for a television production.

Regarding composers turning in their graves, one who will not be doing that is Igor Stravinsky, who was an avid supporter of the operas of G&S, and reportedly collected all recordings of the operas. Sadly our own Scottish Opera has had to postpone a major production of The Gondoliers because of the current Covid restrictions – hopefully that opera will soon appear in its repertoire.

Walter Paul, Glasgow.


THERE are so many reports of people's failure to attend for the Covid vaccine when appointments have been given. How sad it is that so many are not taking advantage to help save their own, and other folks', lives. However difficult it might seem the journeys we have to make to receive the vaccination are relatively short, to the centres for a quick jab, and that is it.

How different it was in 1925 when diphtheria hit a remote community in Alaska. The doctor requested the vaccines from the nearest supplier, 700 miles away; but how to get the vaccines to him when the temperature was -50°C and the plane could not fly? The bravery of 30 "mushers" (dog sled users,) journeying in relays and mostly in darkness through gales, blizzards and the risk of precipices, ensured that the terrible journey was accomplished in 127 hours and the vaccines were delivered to save lives.

All we are asked to do, however inconvenient it might seem, is to go along to the centre as requested and be vaccinated. There we will find some very devoted and hardworking people trying to help us be safe from the virus. Their reward is that we turn up and have the jab they offer. Is it too much to ask?

The journey those mushers made in 1925, more than 700 miles of it, is celebrated annually as the Iditarod Trail Dog Sled Race.

Thelma Edwards, Kelso.


I SUGGEST that the lowly wee comma, essential to the integrity of written comment, but too often overworked or overlooked, has reason to be grumpy at the attention given to its elevated big cousin, the apostrophe (Letters, May 26).

“What is this thing called Love?”, and “What is this thing called, Love?”.

Fair’s fair.

R Russell Smith, Largs.