Portal:Gilbert and Sullivan

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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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The Happy Land
The Happy Land is a play with music written in 1873 by W. S. Gilbert (under the pseudonym F. Latour Tomline) and Gilbert Arthur à Beckett. The musical play burlesques Gilbert's earlier play, The Wicked World. The blank verse piece opened at the Royal Court Theatre on 3 March 1873 and ran for an extremely successful 222 performances. The play created a scandal by breaking regulations against the portrayal of public characters, parodying William Gladstone, Robert Lowe, and Acton Smee Ayrton, respectively the Prime Minister, Chancellor of the Exchequer, and First Commissioner of Works. Three characters were made up to look like the caricatures of Gladstone, Lowe and Ayrton that had appeared in ‘‘Vanity Fair’’. The characters were described in the cast list as Mr. G., Mr. L., and Mr. A. The scandal was great enough to be included in the Annual Register's "Chronicle of Remarkable Occurrences." The Happy Land also anticipated some of the themes in the political satire seen in the Gilbert and Sullivan operas, including unqualified people in positions of authority, like Sir Joseph in H.M.S. Pinafore, selecting government by "competitive examination" as in Iolanthe, and especially the importation of English exemplars to "improve" a naive civilisation, as in Utopia, Limited.

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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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The Beauty Stone

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Richard Cholmondeley
Sir Richard Cholmondeley (1472 – 1521) was an English farmer and soldier, who served as Lieutenant of the Tower of London from 1513 to 1520 during the reign of Henry VIII. Cholmondeley is remembered because of his tomb at the Tower of London and because he is fictionalized as a character in Gilbert and Sullivan's darkly comic opera, The Yeomen of the Guard. Knighted in 1497 for valor in battle against the Scots, Cholmondeley continued to serve as a soldier until 1513, becoming entrusted with many positions of responsibility for security of castles and fortifications in England. He was successful as a farmer and a shrewd investor in land, much increasing his family wealth. As Lieutenant of the Tower of London, he drew criticism for his reaction to the Evil May Day riots of 1517, when he ordered the firing of some of the Tower's artillery at the city during rioting. He was also responsible for the rebuilding of the chapel of St Peter ad Vincula at the Tower. His illegitimate son, Roger Cholmeley, became Chief Justice of the King's Bench.

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Part of a four-part Edison Records recording from 1911. Includes "My gallant crew, good morning", "I am the Captain of the Pinafore", "Sorry her lot" (second verse, beginning "Sad is the hour"), "Over the bright blue sea", and "I am the monarch of the sea"

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Fred Sullivan



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Decima Moore
I had to make my first entrance in a gondola, with my back to the audience; and when I turned round to get out of it and faced the house my feelings were such that I shall never forget. I had only been to about three theatres in my life, and, of course, had never seen an audience in evening dress from the stage. When I did see that audience... I felt a "catch" in the chest as if I had fallen into an ice-cold bath and it had taken away all my breath. I stuck my finger nails into my palms and said, "This won't do!" and walked down the stage, trying to remember all I had been told to do and not to do. I got through the evening in a kind of dream, wept all the way home in the hansom, convinced I had been a failure.


Gilbert and Sullivan
Gilbert and Sullivan topics

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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