Savoy Operas

Savoy Operas
Iolanthe and Other Operas
Introduction and Contents

The introductory material is shown here as it was printed in the original, four-in-one editions. The single-title “Uniform Editions” were slightly different. Only Savoy Operas had a Foreword—and a two-color title page.

Each volume used one of its 32 plates as a fronti­spiece. I’ve shown them in both places: on this page, and again in its “home” opera.

Savoy Operas

BY THE SAME AUTHOR


Crown 4to, 5s. net

THE PINAFORE
PICTURE BOOK

The Story of “H.M.S. Pinafore”
told by W. S. Gilbert

With 16 Illustrations in Colour, numerous Black-and-White Drawings, and Special Cover and End Papers by

ALICE B. WOODWARD

“A delightful book, absolutely bubbling over with the author’s genial and characteristic humour. Miss Woodward has adorned it with illustrations which have caught the very spirit of the bright play, and ‘The Pinafore Picture Book’ is a gift-book which we have never, or, at any rate, ‘hardly ever,’ known surpassed.” —Glasgow Herald.


LONDON: GEORGE BELL AND SONS

scene from Princess Ida

“IF IT BE WELL TO DROOP AND PINE AND MOPE,
TO SIGH ‘OH, IDA! IDA!’ ALL DAY LONG,
THEN PRINCE HILARION IS VERY WELL”

(P. 131)

title page: Savoy Operas by W. S. Gilbert / Patience, Princess Ida, The Pirates of Penzance, The Yeomen of the Guard / with illustrations in colour by W. Russell Flint / London / George Bell & Sons / 1909

CHISWICK PRESS: CHARLES WHITTINGHAM AND CO.
TOOKS COURT, CHANCERY LANE, LONDON.

v

FOREWORD

Each of the four Savoy Libretti which Messrs. Bell have selected for publication in this volume has a little history of its own which, in their opinion, may have some interest for its readers.

The first of these, the “Pirates of Penzance,” was produced at the Fifth Avenue Theatre, New York, after a perfunctory “scratch” performance at Paignton, on the previous night, for supposed copyright purposes. The price of admission was fixed, I believe, at a guinea, and only one person was sufficiently enterprising to pay that sum. The performers read their parts from printed copies and the music of the songs was largely extemporized by them. Whether this “performance” did or did not serve to ensure copyright in the United States I do not know, but threats of procedure against intending violators were based upon it and had the necessary deterring effect. The opera was first produced at the Opéra Comique, London, on the 3rd April, 1880.

A tragic incident occurred at the last rehearsal but one. Miss Everard (the admirable Mrs. Partlet of “The Sorcerer” and Little Buttercup of “H.M.S. Pinafore”) was standing in the middle of the stage when a heavy “set piece” which had been carelessly “footed,” fell forward upon her and caused a fracture of the skull of which the poor lady died in a week. A telegram was immediately despatched to a very clever actress-contralto, Miss Emily vi Cross, who played the part, letter-perfect and note-perfect, two days later, with great success.

The part of Mabel was played by Miss Marion Hood, a singularly beautiful young lady, and a brilliant vocalist. I believe it was her first appearance on the professional stage, and her excellent performance served to secure her many valuable offers. Two or three important members of the company claimed to be foreigners, and although they consented, under pressure, to appear under English names, spoke nevertheless with strong Italian or French accents. One of them, an “Italian,” was brought to a sense of the situation by Mr. R. Barker, the stage manager, who was celebrated for his frank and unceremonious methods of address. Mr. Barker bore with the Italian gentleman for a week or two, but at last his patience was exhausted and he said to him “Look here, my boy, we shall get on much better if you’ll give us a little more Whitechapel and a little less of the Mediterranean.” The Italian gentleman took the hint; he became a native of Whitechapel, and the Mediterranean knew him no more.

In “Patience,” as originally constructed, Grosvenor and Bunthorne were to have been two curates, one of them jealous of the other’s exceeding meekness (the libretto was, in point of fact, suggested by my Bab Ballad—“the Rival Curates,”) and the Cavalry Officers, whose pretensions to the young ladies of the piece were nullified by the superior attractions of the Curates, finished by resigning their commissions and taking orders. In the course of its composition I became conscious of the fact that a chorus of comic clergymen would very properly be resented as a serious violation of the canons of good taste, so I converted Grosvenor and Bunthorne into aesthetic absurdities, without any very violent departure from the “root idea” of the vii piece. One would have thought that when the so-called “aesthetic craze” died out, the popularity of the Opera would have died with it, but, in point of fact, it has survived that social folly nearly thirty years and, at the time of writing, it is as popular as any of the series. It must be admitted, however, that this is mainly referable to the delightful music with which Sir Arthur Sullivan has endowed the libretto, and which, happily, is not dependent for its popularity on the absurdities of a fleeting craze.

“Princess Ida,” in its original form, was an extravaganza founded on Tennyson’s “Princess” and was produced at the Olympic, with already existing music, in (I think) 1870. It was chiefly remarkable for the admirable performance of the name-part by a remarkably beautiful and talented actress, Miss Mattie Reinhardt, who, if she had not married and left the stage, would assuredly have become one of its principal ornaments. King Gama was superbly played by a very clever comedian, Mr. Elliot, who had just distinguished himself by an admirable performance of Uriah Heep in an adaptation of “David Copperfield.” In my “respectful per-version” of Tennyson’s poem the three stalwart sons of King Gama were represented by three very slight and delicate young ladies. Hilarion, Cyril, and Florian were also represented by young ladies, and the effect of three girls playing the parts of men who were disguised as girls involved difficulties which nothing short of the aid of a musical setting by Sir Arthur Sullivan would have overcome. This was an advantage, however, that the piece, in its then form, did not possess.

At the Savoy, the part of Princess Ida was excellently played and sung by Miss Leonora Braham, who had already distinguished herself by her delightful impersonation of Patience, in the opera of that name. The part in viii “The Princess” required a tall, dignified lady, and such a lady was engaged, but the state of her health prevented her attending rehearsals, and the part was given to Miss Braham at almost the last moment. Miss Braham was somewhat short in stature, but in every other respect she fully realized the intentions of composer and author. That superb singer and excellent actress, Miss Rosina Brandram, made her first distinct success as Lady Blanche, and the delightful Jessie Bond revealed a sense of exquisite humour in her joyous impersonation of Melissa. In the last act the principal ladies were dressed in very imposing armour which was supplied by a Paris armurier. On the first night I was sitting in the green-room during the progress of the last act, reading a newspaper, when this gentleman, who had come over from Paris to enjoy the effect of his armour upon the stage, broke in upon me in a wild state of delight, “Mais savez-vous, Monsieur,” said he, “que vous avez là un succès solide?” I replied to the effect that the piece seemed to be going very well. “Mais vous êtes si calme!” he exclaimed with a look of unbounded astonishment. I suppose he expected to see me kissing all the carpenters.

“The Yeomen of the Guard” was somewhat of a departure from the class of piece which was expected of us by the Savoy audience—the story being more of a consistent drama with a certain note of pathos in the development of the character of Jack Point, and as a consequence we awaited the result of the first night’s performance with somewhat anxious minds. However, both press and public accepted the opera with enthusiasm, so all was well. The genesis of this libretto was a placard advertisement of the Tower Furnishing Company, in which a Beefeater was a conspicuous figure. I was on my way from Uxbridge to ix Paddington and, having missed my train at Uxbridge, I had an hour to wait, and so it came to pass that I had plenty of time in which to study the advertisement on the walls. The Beefeater on the placard suggested to me that an effective libretto might be constructed, the scenes in which should represent two views of the Tower of London, with a body of Beefeaters as male chorus. My first idea was to make the piece modern, with young ladies, guardsmen, a Lieutenant of the Tower, and forth; but a picture of a jester in a Magazine which I bought to read while I was waiting suggested to me the advisability of putting the piece back into the sixteenth century in order that I might be able to weave that effectively dramatic figure into the story. I had christened the piece “The Beefeaters,” but Sir Arthur Sullivan considered “Beefeaters” to be an ugly word; so at his urgent instance the title was altered to “The Yeomen of the Guard,” notwithstanding the fact that the Yeomen of the Guard, properly so called, have no association whatever with the Tower of London. I believe that this piece was a special favourite of Sir Arthur Sullivan’s, and I am certainly disposed to regard it as the best piece of work that he and I have produced in collaboration. I am also disposed to believe that, if I had not missed that train, I should never have written that piece. I may mention that some lines from one of the songs “Is life a boon?” were especially honoured by having been selected by the committee of the Sullivan Memorial on the Embankment as worthy to be inscribed on its pedestal.

W. S. GILBERT.

xi

CONTENTS

PAGE
THE PIRATES OF PENZANCE 1
PATIENCE 45
PRINCESS IDA 95
THE YEOMEN OF THE GUARD 151
xiii

LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS

THE PIRATES OF PENZANCE
TO FACE
PAGE
“Pour, oh pour the pirate sherry;
Fill, oh fill the pirate glass”
5
“I am a pirate!” 14
“Too late! Ha! Ha!” 18
“Away, you grieve me!” 22
Dance of the Pirates 24
“With cat-like tread,
Upon our prey we steal”
38
Enter the General’s Daughters 40
A Struggle ensues between Pirates and Police 42
PATIENCE
“Twenty love-sick maidens we” 49
“I cannot tell what this love may be
That cometh to all, but not to me”
52
“Red and yellow! Primary colours! Oh, South Kensington!” 58
“I thought as much—I thought as much!
He was a little boy!”
64
xiv “Archibald! Is it possible?” 66
Enter Bunthorne, crowned with Roses and hung about with Garlands 68
“Silvered is the raven hair” 76
“How Botticellian! How Fra Angelican!” 84
PRINCESS IDA
“I can tell a woman’s age in half a minute—and I do” 106
“Must we, till then, in prison cell be thrust?” 110
Enter the Princess, reading 120
Enter the “Daughters of the Plough,” bearing Luncheon 130
“If it be well to droop and pine and mope,
To sigh ‘Oh, Ida! Ida!’ all day long,
Then prince Hilarion is very well” (p. 131)
Frontispiece
The gate yields. Hildebrand and Soldiers rush in 134
“Though I am but a girl,
Defiance thus I hurl”
136
“Where are your rifles, pray?” 140
THE YEOMEN OF THE GUARD
“I didn’t become a head-jailor because I liked head-jailing” 156
“Oh, father, father, I cannot bear it!” 162
xv “I have a song to sing, O!” 166
Wilfred binds Elsie’s Eyes with a Kerchief 170
“The prisoner comes to meet his doom” 182
“Ah! ’tis but melancholy mumming when poor heartbroken jilted Jack Point must needs turn to Hugh Ambrose for original light humour!” 186
“Nay, Sweetheart, be comforted. This Fairfax was but a pestilent fellow” 198
“It’s the song of a merryman, moping mum” 206

Iolanthe and Other Operas

Uniform with this Volume

SAVOY OPERAS

By W. S. GILBERT

With 32 Illustrations in Colour, and Specially Designed Binding and Title-page by

W. RUSSELL FLINT

Crown 4to, 15s. net

CONTENTS

THE PIRATES OF PENZANCE

PATIENCE   PRINCESS IDA

THE YEOMEN OF THE GUARD

“It is an interesting book; though music may be wanted to make the operas complete, Mr. Russell Flint’s illustrations more than make up for a lack of scenery: some of them are joys for ever. Already the ‘Gilbert and Sullivan’ operas are in many homes as household words, and this book will help to make them even more so.” —Daily Chronicle.


LONDON: GEORGE BELL AND SONS, LTD.

scene from The Mikado

OPENING SCENE OF ACT II

(P. 81)

title page: Iolanthe and Other Operas by W. S. Gilbert / Iolanthe, the Gondoliers, The Mikado, Ruddigore /
with illustrations in colour by W. Russell Flint /
London / George Bell & Sons / 1910

v

CONTENTS

PAGE
IOLANTHE 1
THE MIKADO 51
RUDDIGORE 107
THE GONDOLIERS 165
vii

LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS

IOLANTHE
TO FACE
PAGE
“We are dainty little fairies,
Ever singing, ever dancing”
5
Iolanthe rises from the water 8
“No. You’re quite right—it’s asking too much” 10
“Loudly let the trumpet bray!” 12
“My learned profession I’ll never disgrace 20
“He says she’s his mother!” 22
Private Willis and Fairies 32
“You are a brave fellow!” 48
THE MIKADO
“Three little maids from school!” 66
“To flirt is illegal, and we
Must obey the law”
70
“There’s lots of good fish in the sea!” 80
Opening Scene of Act II (p. 81) Frontispiece
“From every kind of man
Obedience I expect”
90
viii “When a man’s afraid,
A beautiful maid
Is a cheering sight to see”
94
“Something lingering, with boiling oil in it, I fancy” 96
“Here, Nanki-Poo, I’ve good news for you—” 98
RUDDIGORE
“Alas, Dick, I love Rose Maybud, and love in vain!” 120
Enter Rose—He is much struck by her 124
“Over the ripening peach
 Buzzes the bee.
Splash on the billowy beach
 Tumbles the sea”
130
“Poor children, how they loathe me” 134
“Deny the falsehood, Robin, as you should,
It is a plot!”
140
Enter Robin and Adam melodramatically 144
Ghosts make Passes—Robin begins to writhe in Agony 152
“What is the matter? have you carried her off?” 160
THE GONDOLIERS
“List and learn, ye dainty roses” 170
“I’ve at length achieved a capture!” 174
“From the sunny Spanish shore” 178
“You must make some allowance” 184
End of Act I—Girls wave Farewell to Men 198
The Dance is interrupted 206
“When you have nothing else to wear
But cloth of gold and satins rare”
210
“Oncely, twicely—oncely, twicely—
Bow impressively ere you glide”
220

Uniform Editions

Most single-title editions had this version of the advertising box, with titles listed chronologically. Nos. 1, 2, 4 and 7 originally appeared in Savoy Operas, the others in Iolanthe and Other Operas. Early editions listed only four titles—Iolanthe, The Mikado, Patience, The Pirates of Penzance, in alphabetical order—winding up with “Others to follow”.

In the single-title editions, the first six leaves (unpaginated) followed this pattern: half-title and advertising box (overleaf); frontispiece; caption; title page and printer’s information (overleaf); “List of Colour Plates”; cast list. For reasons best known to the publisher, in titles from the second volume (Mikado, Ruddigore, Gondoliers) the cast list counted as the first paginated page.

Uniform edition. With Special Decorated Cover, and 8 full-page Colour-Plates by W. Russell Flint. Price 3s. 6d. net each.

THE PIRATES OF PENZANCE

PATIENCE

IOLANTHE

PRINCESS IDA

THE MIKADO

RUDDIGORE

THE YEOMEN OF THE GUARD

THE GONDOLIERS

The Actors

Each play included a full cast list—not just the Dramatis Personae but the actors’ names. That made it an easy matter to turn the tables sideways to show who created which role. Looking at the overall list, you get the impression that, had it not been for the Great Carpet Quarrel, there would have been a whole new stock company starting from The Yeomen of the Guard.

Unless otherwise noted, the “Pirates” column refers to the first complete English production, at the Opera Comique, premiering 3 April 1880. “R” means “Revival” (the second column in some plays’ cast lists).

Pirates Patience Iolanthe Princess Ida Mikado Ruddigore Yeomen Gondoliers
George Grossmith Major General Reginald Bunthorne Lord Chancellor King Gama Ko-Ko Robin Oakapple Jack Point
Richard Temple Pirate King Colonel Calverley Strephon Arac Mikado Sir Roderic Murgatroyd Sergeant Meryll
Rutland Barrington Sergeant of Police Archibald Grosvenor Earl of Mountararat King Hildebrand Pooh-Bah Sir Despard Murgatroyd Giuseppe Palmieri
Jessie Bond Edith (NY, R) Lady Angela Iolanthe Melissa Pitti-Sing Mad Margaret Phœbe Meryll Tessa
Rosina Brandram Kate (NY), Ruth (R) Lady Jane (R) Queen of the Fairies (R) Lady Blanche Katisha Dame Hannah Dame Carruthers Duchess of Plaza-Toro
Alice Barnett Ruth Lady Jane Queen of the Fairies
Leonora Braham Patience Phyllis Princess Ida Yum-Yum Rose Maybud
Durward Lely Duke of Dunstable Earl Tolloller Cyril Nanki-Poo Dick Dauntless
Julia Gwynne Edith Lady Saphir Leila
Sybil Grey Fleta Sacharissa Peep-Bo
James Wilbraham Sir Gilbert Murgatroyd First Yeoman Annibale
May Fortescue Lady Ella Celia
Rudolph Lewis Adam Goodheart Fourth Yeoman
Wallace Brownlow Sir Richard Cholmondeley Luiz
W. H. Denny Wilfred Shadbolt Grand Inquisitor
Antonio Medcalf Second Yeoman Antonio
Courtice Pounds Colonel Fairfax Marco Palmieri
Geraldine Ulmar Elsie Maynard Gianetta

Notes and Corrections

Text of Savoy Operas title page

SAVOY
OPERAS

by
W. S. GILBERT

 
Patience
Princess Ida
The Pirates of Penzance
The Yeomen of the Guard

with illustrations in colour
by W. Russell Flint
 
London
George Bell & Sons
1909

Notes and Corrections: Foreword to Savoy Operas

produced at the Fifth Avenue Theatre, New York
[Short version: The Pirates of Penzance premiered in New York to give it the U.S. copyright protection that its immediate predecessor, H.M.S. Pinafore, had not enjoyed. It was all very hush-hush, with everyone involved pretending that they were just on their way to mount an authorized production of Pinafore. This helps explain why the two plays are essentially clones of each other.
For the long version, see this article.]

Whether this “performance” did or did not serve to ensure copyright in the United States I do not know
[Gilbert was writing 30 years after the fact, and sometimes it shows. The bare-bones performance in Paignton, one day before the U.S. premiere, was to ensure British copyright. I am also inclined to doubt that, over the course of three decades, Gilbert never noticed whether publications and performances of Pirates in the U.S. were paying him any royalties.]

who played the part
[That is, the part of Ruth.]

Two or three important members of the company claimed to be foreigners
[I would dearly love to know whether Terry Pratchett knew this detail before creating the character Enrico Basilica (né Henry Slugg) in Maskerade.]

One of them, an “Italian,”
[Let’s stipulate that this is the “Mr. Brocolini” of the New York cast, even though the rest of the passage is about the London production.]

would very properly be resented as a serious violation of the canons of good taste
[That’s his story, and he’s sticking to it.]

the delightful Jessie Bond revealed a sense of exquisite humour in her joyous impersonation of Melissa
[It would be nice if Jessie Bond could have returned the compliment. But her autobiography suggests that she didn’t especially care for Princess Ida. In fact one objection may have been the same one you or I would have raised: contrary to what W. S. Gilbert seemed to think, a women’s college is not inherently, automatically and intrinsically funny.]

I suppose he expected to see me kissing all the carpenters
[This comment became William Schwenck Gilbert’s first line in the film Topsy-Turvy.]

Text of Iolanthe and Other Operas title page

IOLANTHE
AND OTHER
OPERAS
by
W. S. GILBERT
 
Iolanthe
The Gondoliers
The Mikado
Ruddigore

with illustrations in colour
by W. Russell Flint
 
London
George Bell & Sons
1910

The original of this text has been in the public domain for years
in the U.S. and most other parts of the world.
All I’ve done is put it online.