- Savoy opera
Gilbert, Sullivan, Carte, and other
Victorian eraBritish composers, librettists and producers, [See German Reeds, Frederic Clay, and F. C. Burnand] as well as the contemporary British press and literature, called works of this kind 'comic operas' to distinguish their content and style from that of the continental European operettas that they wished to displace. Most of the published literature on Gilbert and Sullivan since that time refers to these works as 'Savoy Operas,' 'comic operas', or both. [See Crowther, Stedman, Bailey, Bradley, Ainger, and Jacobs] However, the "Penguin Opera Guides" and many other general music dictionaries and encyclopedias classify the Gilbert and Sullivan works as operettas. ["The New Penguin Opera Guide", ed. Amanda Holden, Penguin Books, London 2001 and "The Penguin Concise Guide to Opera", ed. Amanda Holden, Penguin Books, London 2005 both note: " Operettais the internationally recognized term for the type of work on which William Schwenck Gilbert and Sullivan collaborated under Richard D'Oyly Carte's management (1875-96), but they themselves used the words 'comic opera'". See also the "Oxford Dictionary of Opera", ed. John Warrack and Ewan West, Oxford University Press 1992 and "The New Grove Dictionary of Opera", 4 vols, ed. Stanley Sadie, Macmillan, New York 1992]
"Patience" (1881) was the first opera to appear at the Savoy Theatre, and thus, in a strict sense, the first true "Savoy Opera" — although the term "Savoy Opera" has always included the complete set of thirteen operas that Gilbert and Sullivan wrote for Richard D'Oyly Carte:
Trial by Jury" (1875):" The Sorcerer" (1877):" H.M.S. Pinafore", or "The Lass that Loved a Sailor" (1878):" The Pirates of Penzance", or "The Slave of Duty" (1880):"Patience", or "Bunthorne's Bride" (1881):" Iolanthe", or "The Peer and the Peri" (1882):" Princess Ida", or "Castle Adamant" (1884):" The Mikado", or "The Town of Titipu" (1885):" Ruddigore", or "The Witch's Curse" (1887):" The Yeomen of the Guard", or "The Merryman and his Maid" (1888):" The Gondoliers", or "The King of Barataria" (1889):" Utopia Limited", or "The Flowers of Progress" (1893):" The Grand Duke", or "The Statutory Duel" (1896)
During the years when the
Gilbert and Sullivan(“G&S”) operas were being written, Richard D'Oyly Carteproduced operas by other composer–librettist teams, either as curtain raisers to the G&S pieces, or to fill the theatre when no G&S piece was available. To their contemporaries, the term "Savoy Opera" referred to any opera that appeared at that theatre, regardless of who wrote it.
Aside from curtain raisers (which are listed in the second table below), the G&S operas were the only works produced at the
Savoy Theatrefrom the date it opened ( October 10 1881) until " The Gondoliers" closed on June 20 1891. Over the next decade, there were only two new G&S pieces (" Utopia Limited" and " The Grand Duke"), both of which had comparatively brief runs. To fill the gap, Carte mounted G&S revivals, Sullivan operas with different librettists, and works by other composer–librettist teams. Richard D'Oyly Carte died on April 3 1901. If the nexus of Carte and the Savoy Theatreis used to define "Savoy Opera," then the last new Savoy Opera was " The Rose of Persia" (music by Sullivan, libretto by Basil Hood), which ran from November 28 1899– June 28 1900.
After Carte's death, his wife
Helen Carteassumed management of the theatre. She continued to produce new pieces in the G&S style, along with G&S revivals. Counting the pieces that Mrs. D'Oyly Carte produced, the last Savoy Opera was " A Princess of Kensington" (music by Edward German, libretto by Basil Hood), which ran for four months in early 1903. This is the point that Cyril Rollins and R. John Witts adopt as the end of the Savoy Operas. After "A Princess of Kensington", Mrs. D'Oyly Carte relinquished control of the theatre until December 8 1906, when she produced a series of G&S revivals in repertory, with Gilbert returning to direct. In March 1909, Charles H. Workmanassumed control of the theatre, producing three new pieces, including one by Gilbert himself, " Fallen Fairies" (music by Edward German). The last of these Workman-produced works came in early 1910, "Two Merry Monarchs" by Arthur Anderson, George Levy, and Hartley Carrick, with music by Orlando Morgan. S. J. Adair Fitz-Gerald regards this piece as the last of the Savoy Operas.
Fitz-Gerald wrote his book, "The Story of the Savoy Opera", in 1924, when these other pieces were still within living memory. But over time, anything produced at the Savoy by other composers or librettists was largely forgotten. The term "Savoy Opera" came to be synonymous with the works of
Gilbert and Sullivan.
The first collaboration of Gilbert and Sullivan—the 1871 opera "Thespis"—was not a Savoy Opera under any of the definitions mentioned to this point, as Richard D'Oyly Carte did not produce it, nor was it ever performed at the Savoy Theatre. Given its lack of a D'Oyly Carte or Savoy connection, "Thespis" has a tenuous claim to be a "Savoy Opera." However, Rollins & Witts include it in their compendium of the Savoy Operas, as does Geoffrey Smith.
The following table shows all of the full-length operas that could be considered "Savoy Operas" under any of the definitions mentioned above. Only first runs are shown. Curtain-raisers and afterpieces that played with the Savoy Operas are included in the next table below.
During the original runs of the Savoy Operas, each full-length work was normally accompanied by one or two short companion pieces. A piece that began the performance was called a curtain-raiser, and one that ended the performance was called an afterpiece.
The following table lists the known companion pieces that appeared at the Opera Comique or the Savoy Theatre during the original runs and principal revivals of the Savoy Operas through 1909. There may have been more such pieces that have not yet been identified. In a number of cases, the exact opening and closing dates are not known. Date ranges overlap, since it was common to rotate two or more companion pieces at performances during the same period to be played with the main piece.
Many of these pieces also played elsewhere (and often on tour by D'Oyly Carte touring companies). Only the runs at the Opera Comique and the Savoy are shown here.
*Indicates an approximate date.
* Foreword by Martyn Green.
* [http://diamond.boisestate.edu/gas/ The Gilbert and Sullivan Archive]
* [http://diamond.boisestate.edu/gas/companions/html/curtain_home.html Information about curtain raisers and companion pieces] at The Gilbert and Sullivan Archive
* [http://www.cris.com/~oakapple/gasdisc/index.htm The Gilbert and Sullivan Discography]
* [http://www.musicals101.com/g&s101.htm Gilbert & Sullivan 101, with essays, bibliography, related links, etc.]
* [http://www.cris.com/~oakapple/savoynet Savoynet - an email-based G&S listserv]
* [http://math.boisestate.edu/gas/whowaswho/index.htm Who Was Who in the D'Oyly Carte]
* [http://pinafore.www3.50megs.com/mainindex.html Memories of the D'Oyly Carte website]
* [http://savoyoperas.org.uk/home.htm Reviews of the operas]
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