Gilbert and Sullivan refers to the Victorian era partnership of librettistW. S. Gilbert (1836–1911) and composerArthur 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.
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.
Kenneth Sandford (28 June 1924 – 19 September 2004) was an English singer and actor, best known for his performances in baritone roles of the Savoy Operas of Gilbert and Sullivan. After service the Royal Air Force during World War II, Sandford turned away from a career in art and studied singing. He performed in musical theatre in the West End and on tour between 1950 and 1956, including 800 performances starring in a revue called Jokers Wild with The Crazy Gang. He also began a concert career. In 1957, he was engaged by the D'Oyly Carte Opera Company and immediately began to perform eight principal roles in repertory, including Pooh-Bah in The Mikado. He remained with the company for 25 years until it closed, also making about twenty recordings with the company, and several recordings for Readers' Digest and others. In later years, Sandford continued to tour in and direct Gilbert and Sullivan productions, often with his former D'Oyly Carte colleague Roberta Morrell. After The International Gilbert and Sullivan Festival was established in 1994, he often performed and lectured for the festival's audiences and held master classes for its performers.
A very early wax cylinder recording (October 5, 1888) of Arthur Sullivan recording an audio letter to be sent back to Thomas Alva Edison at a phonograph party hosted by Edison's London representative, George Gouraud.
[Richard D'Oyly] Carte could take in the details of a scene with one sweep of his eagle eye and say unerringly just what was wrong. ...he noticed that Ko-Ko's love scene with Katisha might be improved, and so we went together for an extra rehearsal.... Mr. Carte said he would be Katisha and I, of course, was to be Ko-Ko. Now, to make love to a bearded man, and a man who was one's manager into the bargain, was rather a task, but we both entered heartily into the spirit of the thing. "Just act as you would if you were on the stage," was his advice, "though you needn't actually kiss me, you know!" ...Little Rupert D'Oyly Carte was there, and before the rehearsal commenced, I lifted him on to the bar counter, where he sat and simply held his sides with laughter watching me making earnest love to his father!" That "eye" for stagecraft... has been inherited in a quite remarkable degree by his son, Mr. Rupert D'Oyly Carte. He, too, has the gift of taking in the details of a scene at a glance, and knowing instinctively just what must be corrected....