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.
Ruddigore, or The Witch's Curse, is a comic opera in two acts, with music by Arthur Sullivan and libretto by W. S. Gilbert. It is one of the Savoy Operas and the tenth of fourteen comic operas written together by Gilbert and Sullivan. It was first performed by the D'Oyly Carte Opera Company at the Savoy Theatre in London on 22 January 1887. The first night was not altogether a success, as critics and the audience felt that Ruddygore (as it was originally spelled) did not measure up to its predecessor, The Mikado. After some changes, including respelling the title, it achieved a run of 288 performances. The piece was profitable, and the reviews were not all bad. For instance, the Illustrated London News praised the work and both Gilbert and, especially, Sullivan: "Sir Arthur Sullivan has eminently succeeded alike in the expression of refined sentiment and comic humour. In the former respect, the charm of graceful melody prevails; while, in the latter, the music of the most grotesque situations is redolent of fun."
The final tie of the Association Football Cup was being played at the Crystal Palace, and I determined to sing them a verse giving the score at half-time.... I had written... an alternative two lines to suit whichever team had scored, but when the curtain rose for my turn the news had not come. While I was singing the song I saw the stage manager in the wings waving a telegram. ...I went to the wings, got the envelope, opened it before the audience, and sang them the information that Aston Villa was a goal ahead. I do not think I have ever had a greater success with a verse.