Portal:Gilbert and Sullivan

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Gilbert and Sullivan refers to the Victorian-era theatrical partnership of the dramatist W. S. Gilbert (1836–1911) and the composer Arthur Sullivan (1842–1900) and to the works they jointly created. The two men collaborated on 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 libretti for these operas, created fanciful "topsy-turvy" worlds 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 emerge as noblemen who have gone astray. Sullivan, six years Gilbert's junior, composed the music, contributing memorable melodies that could convey both humour and pathos.

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The Yeomen of the Guard
The Yeomen of the Guard, or The Merryman and his Maid, is a Savoy Opera, with music by Arthur Sullivan and libretto by W. S. Gilbert. It premiered at the Savoy Theatre on 3 October 1888, and ran for 423 performances. This was the eleventh collaboration of fourteen between Gilbert and Sullivan. The opera is set in the Tower of London, during the 16th century, and is the darkest, and perhaps most emotionally engaging, of the Savoy Operas, ending with a broken-hearted main character and two very reluctant engagements, rather than the usual numerous marriages. The libretto does contain considerable humour, including a lot of pun-laden one-liners, but Gilbert's trademark satire and topsy-turvy plot complications are subdued in comparison with the other Gilbert and Sullivan operas. The dialogue, though in prose, is quasi-Shakespearian, or early modern English, in style. Critics considered the score to be Sullivan's finest, including an overture in sonata form, rather than as a sequential pot-pourri of tunes from the opera, as in most of the other Gilbert and Sullivan overtures. This was the first Savoy Opera to use Sullivan's larger orchestra, including a second bassoon and third trombone. Most of Sullivan's subsequent operas, including those not composed with Gilbert as librettist, use this larger orchestra.

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Richard D'Oyly Carte
Richard D'Oyly Carte (3 May 1844 – 3 April 1901) was an English talent agent, theatrical impresario and hotelier during the latter half of the Victorian era. Carte started his career in his father's music publishing and musical instrument manufacturing business. He composed music of his own, early in his career, but soon turned to promoting the careers of others. Carte believed that a school of wholesome English comic opera could be as successful as that of the risqué French works dominating the London musical theatre in the 1870s. To that end, he brought together W. S. Gilbert and Arthur Sullivan to create a series of thirteen Savoy Operas, founding the D'Oyly Carte Opera Company, and building the Savoy Theatre to host the Gilbert and Sullivan operas. Carte also built the Savoy Hotel and managed other hotels. In addition, he built the Palace Theatre, London, which he had intended as the home of a new school of English grand opera. Although his last ambition was not realised beyond the production of a single grand opera by Sullivan, Ivanhoe, his partnership with Gilbert and Sullivan, and his careful management of their operas and relationship, created a series of works that had unprecedented success in the musical theatre. His opera company promoted those works for over a century, and they are still performed regularly today.

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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.



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George Grossmith
Of course, I haven’t any voice to speak of, but I have a great register, and Sullivan used to amuse himself by making me sing bass in one number of an opera and tenor in another. In 'Ruddygore', Sir Arthur had engaged a man to play the servant, my menial, so to speak, who had an enormous bass voice, and who had to go down to the lower E flat. Singularly enough, he could go down to G, and then he dropped out entirely, and I did the [low E-flat] below. Generally the audience roared with laughter, and it absolutely brought down the house.


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