Robert Del Monte talks 50 Years of Gilbert and Sullivan
The Gilbert & Sullivan Light Opera Company of Long Island has recognized longtime member Robert Del Monte of Oceanside for an unprecedented accomplishment: Del Monte has been a member of the company for 50 consecutive years, during which time he has performed in every major production the company has done, from The Pirates of Penzance in 1971 to the internet movie Very Truly Yours, Gilbert & Sullivan in 2021.
Widely recognized as “the dean of the company” and “the backbone of the chorus,” Del
Monte was presented with a special plaque commissioned by the company board at a
ceremony at his home in Oceanside. The ceremony was conducted by Gayden Wren,
a longtime friend and colleague who has directed Del Monte’s two most recent shows
with the company.
“It’s been a long time, and every year has its challenges,” Del Monte said. “But I’ve
hung in there.”
Since making his debut in 1971, Del Monte has appeared in all 14 Gilbert & Sullivan
operas, as well as the Sullivan/Stephenson opera The Zoo, A Gilbert & Sullivan
Christmas Carol and the biographical play Very Truly Yours, Gilbert & Sullivan. The
other works are fine, said Del Monte, who is also a lifelong devotee of Broadway, grand
opera and the ballet, but his real devotion is to the canonical operas by W.S. Gilbert and
Arthur Sullivan, of which he was a fan growing up.
“There’s nothing like the real thing,” he said. “The words, the music, the characters, the
stories … I love being on the stage, and I love watching them when I’m not onstage, or
listening to the recordings.”
Though most frequently seen in the company’s chorus, Del Monte has sung assorted
small roles with the company for many years, including the Foreman in Trial by Jury, a
Noble in The Mikado, the Fourth Ghost in Ruddigore, the First Yeoman in The Yeomen
of the Guard and Giorgio in The Gondoliers. His comic policeman in The Pirates of
Penzance is particularly popular with company audiences.
As to the future, Del Monte’s love of Gilbert & Sullivan remains strong, even after the
company was forced to postpone its 2020 production of The Mikado until 2022, and he
hopes that his health and other considerations will permit him to return to the stage in
“One year at a time,” he said. “You can’t look too far ahead.”
That’s been Del Monte’s secret, said Wren, who himself has been with the company for
45 years—but not, he hastened to add, consecutively.
“I don’t think anybody will ever come close to Robert’s mark,” Wren said. “I think even
25 consecutive years has been done by only one other member in our history. But ‘one
year at a time’ is how you do it. Nobody could ever hope to do this for 50 years—it’s too
difficult, it’s too time-consuming, it’s too intense to even think of such a thing. You do it
for one year … and then you do that 49 more times.”
(Robert Del Monte can be seen as The New York Mirror and soloing on “Hail Poetry,”
alongside 51 other members of the Gilbert & Sullivan Light Opera Company of Long
Island, in Very Truly Yours, Gilbert & Sullivan, available free on YouTube at
EDITORS: For more information on Robert Del Monte and the Gilbert & Sullivan Light
Opera Company of Long Island, or to arrange to interview Mr. Del Monte, contact
Gayden Wren at (718) 777-8486 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Robert Del Monte (left), a longtime resident of Oceanside, accepts a plaque
commemorating his 50 consecutive years with the Gilbert & Sullivan Light Opera
Company of Long Island from the company’s Gayden Wren. Del Monte’s first
performance with the company was in January 1971. (Photo by Sara Elliott Holliday.
Copyright 2021 The Gilbert & Sullivan Light Opera Company of Long Island.)
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