Portal:Gilbert and Sullivan

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The Gilbert and Sullivan Portal

Ages Ago

Ages Ago, during the rehearsals for which Frederic Clay introduced Gilbert to Sullivan.

Gilbert and Sullivan refers to the Victorian era partnership of librettist W. S. Gilbert (1836–1911) and composer Arthur Sullivan (1842–1900). Together, they wrote fourteen comic operas between 1871 and 1896, of which H.M.S. Pinafore, The Pirates of Penzance, and The Mikado are among the best known. Gilbert, who wrote the words, created fanciful "topsy-turvy" worlds for these operas, where each absurdity is taken to its logical conclusion—fairies rub elbows with British lords, flirting is a capital offence, gondoliers ascend to the monarchy, and pirates turn out to be noblemen who have gone wrong. Sullivan, six years Gilbert's junior, composed the music, contributing memorable melodies that could convey both humour and pathos. Producer Richard D'Oyly Carte brought Gilbert and Sullivan together and nurtured their collaboration. He built the Savoy Theatre in 1881 to present their joint works—which came to be known as the Savoy Operas—and he founded the D'Oyly Carte Opera Company, which performed and promoted their works for over a century. The Gilbert and Sullivan operas have enjoyed broad and enduring international success and are still performed frequently throughout the English-speaking world. The collaboration introduced innovations in content and form that directly influenced the development of musical theatre through the 20th century. The operas have also influenced political discourse, literature, film and television and have been widely parodied and pastiched by humorists.

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Topsyturveydom (sometimes spelled Topsyturvydom or Topseyturveydom) is a one-act operetta, styled "an entirely original musical extravaganza", by W. S. Gilbert with music by Alfred Cellier. It opened on March 21, 1874 at the Criterion Theatre in London. This was the first work shown at the newly-built Criterion, and it was played together with An American Lady, written and performed by Gilbert's friend, the dramatist and Fun magazine founder, Henry J. Byron. The musical score to Topsyturveydom does not survive, but amateur productions in recent decades have used newly-composed scores or performed the work as a non-musical play. Advertisements for the work spelled the title "Topsy­turveydom", whereas the license copy of the libretto, filed with the Lord Chamberlain's office, and now held in the British Library, spells it "Topsy­turvydom". Topsy­turveydom is set in a quasi-utopia (reminiscent of Gilbert's earlier Happy Arcadia (1872), or even Jonathan Swift's Gulliver's Travels), where things are the opposite of the norm. Party politics is lampooned, much as it would be two decades later in Gilbert and Sullivan's Utopia, Limited. As in that work, the king is a "detested" monarch. Gilbert also renews the idea of party politics working in a backwards way in Iolanthe, where the House of Lords is threatened with obsolescence by having its members selected by competitive examination.

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Credit: D'Oyly Carte Opera Company (1919)

The Mikado, or The Town of Titipu, is a comic opera in two acts, their ninth of fourteen operatic collaborations. It opened on March 14, 1885, in London, where it ran at the Savoy Theatre for 672 performances, which was the second longest run for any work of musical theatre and one of the longest runs of any theatre piece up to that time.

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Fancourt as The Mikado of Japan
Darrell Fancourt (8 March 1886 – 29 August 1953) was an English bass-baritone, known for his performances and recordings of the Savoy Operas. After a brief concert career, Fancourt joined the D'Oyly Carte Opera Company, where he starred in more than 10,000 performances over a 33-year period until his death. He regularly played about ten different roles for the company over these years, including the title character in The Mikado, the pirate king in The Pirates of Penzance and Dick Deadeye in H.M.S. Pinafore. Fancourt was famous for his melodramatic style, creating the controversial Mikado laugh that was later adopted by some of his successors. His performances are preserved in nineteen of the company's recordings made between 1923 and 1950.

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A 1914 Edison Records recording of extracts from Gilbert and Sullivan's The Mikado. It includes selections from the overture, "A wand'ring minstrel", "Three little maids", "Tit-willow", and the Act II finale.

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Jessie Bond
Surely, I felt, it would interest a public that still loves the Gilbert and Sullivan Operas, and even outside that public the human story of a girl's ambitions and aspirations, of her struggle with adverse circumstances and the gradual attainment of her desires, must have value if told simply and sincerely.... I am one of the last of my generation. I have outlived prejudices and animosities, and can look back on my own life as on an interesting story. That I have tried to make it. An absolutely true story of struggle and gradual attainment may perhaps encourage some weary young aspirant, and to do that would alone make it well worth while.


Gilbert and Sullivan
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The Triumvirate: W. S. GilbertArthur SullivanRichard D'Oyly Carte

The Gilbert and Sullivan Operas: ThespisTrial by JuryThe SorcererH.M.S. PinaforeThe Pirates of PenzancePatienceIolanthePrincess IdaThe MikadoRuddigoreThe Yeomen of the GuardThe GondoliersUtopia, LimitedThe Grand Duke

Other Works, People and Related Matters: Other Works by W. S. GilbertOther Operas by Arthur SullivanOther Music by Arthur SullivanSavoy operaPeople associated with Gilbert and SullivanGilbert and Sullivan performersD'Oyly Carte Opera CompanyHelen CarteRupert D'Oyly CarteBridget D'Oyly CarteCultural influence of Gilbert and SullivanInternational Gilbert and Sullivan Festival

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