Albert Bergeret, Artistic Director
Albert Bergeret (Founder & Artistic Director) has made a professional specialty of Gilbert & Sullivan, having sung, conducted, directed, or designed every opera in the G&S canon over the past forty years, with professional companies, community groups, and college organizations. He has been hailed as "the leading custodian of the G&S classics" by New York magazine, and his work as both stage and musical director has been widely acclaimed in the New York press as well as on tour throughout the United States.
Mr. Bergeret co-founded the New York Gilbert & Sullivan Players (NYGASP) in 1974 and has served as its Artistic Director/General Manager ever since, conducting and directing all of the company's repertory of thirteen G&S productions, as well as Gershwin's Of Thee I Sing. His boundless energy and clear understanding of the G&S genre have helped to shape the company's artistic output and to develop a loyal following for its annual performances at New York City Center in Manhattan as well as in other communities where NYGASP has toured.
He has conducted programs with Orchestra London Canada, The Northwest Indiana Symphony, and The Erie Philharmonic (featuring Broadway star Mary Beth Peil and Metropolitan Opera Baritone Robert Goodloe). He has also conducted and directed such widely diverse personalities as Steve Allen, Hal Linden, John Astin, Noel Harrison, Pat Carroll, John Rubinstein, Louis Quilico, Lando Bartolini, and John Reed, O.B.E.
Mr. Bergeret is a resident stage director with New York Grand Opera, specializing in such seldom seen Verdi operas as Stiffelio, Aroldo, Un Giorno di Regno, and Ernani.
He has a Bachelor of Arts in music from Columbia College, and twenty years experience as technical director with New York Grand Opera, Barnard College, and Symphony Space. Mr. Bergeret is also an accomplished performer with extensive church choir experience and numerous supporting roles in grand opera to his credit. He appears frequently as a singer with NYGASP's "Wand'ring Minstrels" as well as in children's performances.
As founder and artistic director/general manager of New York Gilbert & Sullivan Players, I have dedicated most of my professional life, not to mention my personal life, to developing and nurturing this company and the repertoire which it performs. I believe that the Gilbert & Sullivan works themselves are worthy of this effort and that they have a very special place in the history of entertainment and culture. Their enduring appeal is due to Gilbert’s witty commentary on universally recognizable human foibles and Sullivan’s evocative, thrilling, and engaging scores. Not merely museum pieces for the nostalgic reminiscences of devoted fans, these musical shows have the ability to communicate with contemporary audiences. My goal in all of our productions is to engage all members of the audience, from youngsters and others who are new to the material on through the life-long G&S enthusiast.
While the shows in their original format still resonate over 100 years after their creation, modern topical updates sometimes help to bring the point home and/or enliven the comedic element where archaic references fall flat. I also try to imbue our productions with movement and theatrical truth which were not part of the stage tradition in the time of Gilbert & Sullivan. In fact, Gilbert and Sullivan may be viewed as the originators of the genre now referred to as musical comedy, although their works are generally referred to as operettas.
W.S. Gilbert & Arthur Sullivan, along with their producing partner Richard D’Oyly Carte, were at the forefront of much innovation, both theatrically and legally. Gilbert was the first true modern stage director, taking full responsibility for interpretation and staging as opposed to simple traffic direction. Sullivan’s melding of bel canto opera sophistication with elements of popular music hall tradition started a trend which continues in more recent musical shows. As a team they were responsible for making the theater an acceptable place for respectable women to work, and they were also at the forefront of efforts to establish international copyrights – something which they never achieved for themselves, but legated to future generations of artists. Just about every musical theater team ever since their day owes the G&S collaboration an enormous debt both artistically and financially.
In my over 40 years of experience in this genre, I have evolved elaborate and very specific ideas about how these works should be conceived and performed, however, I have also learned to encourage and adopt individual input from the many talented performers and artists with whom I have had the privilege of collaborating. G&S works best with a cohesive company of performers, such as the one the original team created, who can develop an elusive trait known as style. Although I am a rigid task master in many ways, as were Gilbert and, to a lesser extent, Sullivan themselves, my greatest artistic thrill comes from seeing an individual performer go beyond the bounds of repertory production to bring a unique musical and dramatic characterization to life. The camaraderie of working with many of the same artists over a period of many years also has particular satisfactions. It allows NYGASP productions to resonate with our unique blend of precision and confidence, but also allows the flexibility for spontaneity which is the essence of live theater. In other words, no two performances are exactly alike and I never grow tired of working the same material over and over again. I also encourage our performers to recognize the differences between each audience, especially on regional tours and in children’s performances. Without talking down to the audience, this approach solicits the audience’s full participation in the performance without which live theater, and especially comedy, cannot exist.
I also believe that by controlling both the musical and stage direction I am able to bring a unifying approach to the performances of NYGASP. Sometimes it seems that I direct dialogue as if it were music and lyrics as if they were spoken language. In the best circumstances, this weaves a theatrical impression of consistency and makes the ideas behind the words jump off the page. As a conductor, I am always looking for the particular way that a musical phrase may best express the moment, or how the inflection of a spoken line can change its meaning, and these will vary with each performer and at each presentation. As a stage director, I hope to hear the audience’s enthusiastic response to the intent of the performance, especially the humor which has the capacity to generate that most immediate response – laughter.
Gilbert’s satirical jabs may have had specific targets, but they were never mean-spirited. He held up the mirror to the excesses of human behavior, using examples from Victorian England, but his desire to make his points palatable, even to those he was mocking, has rendered his works timeless in their appeal. Sullivan’s musical satire is more subtle, but nonetheless gleeful, and his real genius lay in his ability to set the English language to music with unerring clarity while evoking a particular time and place with musical tone-painting. The resultant joyous mix is both frothy and thrilling by degrees, as many generations of G&S enthusiasts can attest.
As our mission statement states, NYGASP seeks to “bring vitality to the living legacy of Gilbert & Sullivan” in all that it does. Educating new generations is part of the plan, as is spreading the joy of Gilbert & Sullivan to as wide an audience as possible. I suspect that the G&S repertoire will remain on the boards throughout the English speaking world for many years, and I expect NYGASP will continue to be a part of an ever developing tradition. As we have called our first CD, “Oh, Joy! Oh, Rapture!”
“The stage direction by Bergeret is a model for flow and well-timed invention.” New York Daily News
“Albert Bergeret performs the music with admirable clarity and verve.” New York Daily News
“…The stage direction by Mr. Bergeret offered the balance of economy and extravagance that makes Gilbert and Sullivan work…The choruses sang and acted delightfully, and the orchestra, conducted by Mr. Bergeret, supported the cast with robust playing guaranteed to warm the most demanding Savoyard’s heart.” The New York Times
“His direction is full of witty touches without a hint of tired G&S schtick, and he tempers his vivacious approach to the music with just the right dash of elegant sentiment.” New York Magazine
“Bergeret’s affection for these wonderful works continues to be as undiminished as his skill at putting them on stage.” New York Magazine
“Having observed Bergeret conduct, direct, and sing in most of the Savoyard operettas over the past sixteen years, I assume that he is ultimately responsible for the group’s infectious spirit and for productions that bubble over with so much wit, musical cheer, and theatrical energy.” New York Magazine
“Bergeret has dedicated his life to keeping the Savoy operettas fresh…directed with skill, inventively seasoned, imbued with talent…guided by good taste and expressed with exceptional enunciation.” Newsday
“Albert Bergeret’s staging and musical direction (he leads the fine orchestra) are highly accomplished. Under his leadership the performance never flags.” New York Post
“Albert Bergeret, who is the music director, stage director, scenic designer, and guiding force, is perhaps the most important Gilbert & Sullivan advocate New York has to offer. Bergeret not only provides an opportunity for this repertory to be performed by professionals, but he has spared no expense to restore G&S’s works to their original artistic level.” Gannett Westchester