Hartley Gilbert & Sullivan Society

The G&S Story

William Schwenck Gilbert and Arthur Seymour Sullivan were brought together by impresario Richard D'Oyly Carte in 1875 to produce a One Act piece to act as a curtain raiser for Offenbach's La Perichole. Gilbert already had a had a short piece ready called Trial by Jury which Sullivan set to music and proved to be a massive hit running for 131 performances. Between 1877 and 1896 Gilbert and Sullivan went on to write 12 more comic operas all of which are still performed all over the world today.


The shows:


Thespis:  This, the first collaboration of Gilbert and Sullivan (before they were officially collaborators), was conceived as a Christmas entertainment for the Gaiety Theatre where it received its first performance on 26 December 1871 and ran for 63 performances.


Trial by Jury:  A one-act piece, only 40 minutes in length, produced to be a curtain-raiser for La Perichole.  Ran for 131 performances.


The Sorcerer: The first official full length collaboration of Gilbert and Sullivan opened on November 17th 1877 at the Opera Comique and ran for 178 performances.


HMS Pinafore: Opened on May 25th 1878 at the Opera Comique and ran for 578 performances.


The Pirates of Penzance: Premiered in New York New Year's Eve 1879. Its London Premier was four months later on April 3rd 1880 at the Opera Comique and ran for 363 performances.


Patience: Opened on April 23rd 1881 at the Opera Comique and ran for 170 performances before it transferred to the new Savoy Theatre on October 10th 1881 where it ran for a further 408 performances. This was the last G&S to premier at the Opera Comique and the first to play at The Savoy.


Iolanthe: opened on November 25th 1882 at the Savoy Theatre, just three days after Patience closed. It ran for 398 performances and was the first G&S to premier at The Savoy.


Princess Ida: Opened on January 5th 1884 at The Savoy and ran for 246 performances, which by Savoy Opera standards was considered a flop.


The Mikado: Opened on March 14th 1885 at The Savoy and ran for 672 performances.


Ruddigore: Opened on January 22nd 1887 at The Savoy and ran for 288 performances. The first night was not a great success and caused Gilbert and Sullivan to make several cuts and alterations which included changing the spelling of the title from Ruddygore to Ruddigore.


The Yeomen of The Guard: Opened on the October 3rd 1888 at The Savoy and ran for 423 performances.


The Gondoliers: Opened on June 20th 1891 at The Savoy and ran for 554 performances. This was the last big successful collaboration between Gilbert and Sullivan and was their last work for four years as their relationship turned sour over sharing the expenses for a new carpet for the Savoy's lobby Sullivan and D'Oyly Carte believed Gilbert and Sullivan should pay for some of it it whilst Gilbert felt that Carte should pay for all of it as it was his theatre. As silly as this may sound this row effectively ended the G&S partnership. The problem was eventually resolved and Gilbert and Sullivan began working together once more on...


Utopia Limited: Opened on October 7th 1893 at The Savoy and ran for 245 performances. It was felt that Gilbert and Sullivan were still somewhat bitter over the row about the carpet and the lawsuits that had entailed which caused them to not be as collaborative about Utopia as they had the previous Savoy Operas and it suffered as a result.


The Grand Duke:  Opened on March 7th 1896 at The Savoy; was the last collaboration between WS Gilbert and Arthur Sullivan. It ran for just 123 performances The Libretto was considered far too long by many and the plot to be not as tight as the earlier G&S plots had been, also with a large principle cast The Grand Duke is the least performed of the Savoy Operas especially by amateur groups ,Hartley have only performed it once. The Grand Duke marked the end of the G&S partnership. Gilbert was knighted in 1907.  He continued producing until he died on May 29th 1911. Sullivan was knighted 1883.  Like Gilbert, he continued working after the partnership ended but did not enjoy the same success he had with the Savoy Operas. Arthur Sullivan died on November 19th 1900.




Want more information on the lives and shows of Gilbert & Sullivan?  Why not check out the Gilbert & Sullivan Archive?