Gilbert & Sullivan biography
 

Gilbert & Sullivan

Gilbert & Sullivan Biography


Playwright/lyricist William S. Gilbert (1836-1911) and composer Arthur S. Sullivan (1842-1900) defined operetta in Victorian England with a series of their internationally successful and timeless works.

Their first major hit was HMS Pinafore (1878), satirizing the Royal Navy and the British obsession with social status. The Pirates of Penzance (1879), written in a fit of pique at American copyright pirates, also poked fun at romantic melodrama, sense of duty, family obligation, and the relevance of a liberal education. Patience (1881) satirized the aesthetic movement in general and the poet and aesthete Oscar Wilde in particular. Iolanthe (1882) pokes fun at English law and at the House of Lords. Ruddigore (1887) is a topsy-turvy take on the Victorian Melodrama, and viciously satirizes that entire genre. The Yeomen of the Guard (1888), their only joint work with a tragic ending, concerns a strolling jester who finds himself embroiled in a risky intrigue at the Tower of London. The Gondoliers (1889) pokes fun at the plot devices of opera in the setting of a kingdom ruled by a pair of gondoliers who try to run it in a spirit of 'republican equality'. Trial By Jury is rather self-evident, but is unique because it was the only operetta with no spoken dialogue. Their most popular work was The Mikado (1885), where English bureaucracy was made fun of in a Japanese setting.

Gilbert's plots remain perfect examples of 'topsy-turvydom,' in which primeval fairies rub elbows with English lords, gondoliers ascend to the monarchy and pirates reconcile with majors general. Gilbert's lyrics employ double (and triple) rhyming and punning, and served as the very model for such 20th century Broadway lyricists as Cole Porter, Ira Gershwin, and Lorenz Hart. Sullivan, a classically trained musician who devoted much of his career to religious hymns and grand opera, contributed catchy melodies which were also emotionally moving. As seamless as their onstage collaboration was, Gilbert and Sullivan were temperamentally incompatible, and their partnership was frequently ruptured. Their last joint work, The Grand Duke, opened in 1896, and the sickly Sullivan died four years later.

Their works were originally produced by British impresario Richard D'Oyly Carte, considered by some to be the third member of this partnership, who built the Savoy Theatre in London to present their operettas, and formed the D'Oyly Carte Opera Company, which would perform the Savoy Operettas with exacting detail until 1982. The Gilbert and Sullivan operettas were even more popular abroad, and many American cities saw amateur and professional Gilbert and Sullivan performing groups. This trend has continued to the present day, and it can be argued that these operettas and The Mikado in particular were instrumental in giving the particular shape to American musical of the 20th century.

Moreover, many cultural movements saw the influence of Gilbert and Sullvan. For instance, aestheticism, the cultural movement characterized by Oscar Wilde and satirized in Patience, was actually brought to the United States by Richard D'Oyly Carte so that Americans could understand the operetta. In terms of humor, the idea of extending a joke throughout a piece of literature and/or comedy work is prevalent in the Savoy Operas.

The 1999 Mike Leigh film Topsy-Turvy presents the most recent acclaimed film depiction of the team and their creation of their most popular operetta, The Mikado .

The works of Gilbert and Sullivan are frequently parodied or pastiched; a notable example of this is Tom Lehrer's performance of the 'Major General's Song' (from the operetta The Pirates of Penzance), with the chemical periodic table of elements set to Sullivan's original music. (see Elements song) The popular TV series Family Guy drew from Gilbert and Sullivan with a parody of the 'Captain's Song' from H.M.S. Pinafore. Larry David's show Curb Your Enthusiasm uses 'Three Little Maids' from The Mikado as background music.

Contents

Collaborations

Well-Known Gilbert & Sullivan Actors



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Items to buy by Gilbert & Sullivan



Gilbert & Sullivan for Singers (The Vocal Library Soprano). By Sir Arthur Seymour Sullivan (1842-1900) and W.S. Gilbert. Arranged by Richard Walters. Vocal Collection. Play Along. Softcover with CD. 88 pages. Published by Hal Leonard

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Gilbert & Sullivan for Singers (The Vocal Library Baritone/Bass). By Sir Arthur Seymour Sullivan (1842-1900) and W.S. Gilbert. Arranged by Richard Walters. Vocal Collection. Play Along. Softcover with CD. 96 pages. Published by Hal Leonard

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"Music for Two, Volume 3 - Flute/Oboe/Violin and Cello/Bassoon" "Arranged by Daniel Kelley. For Flute (or Oboe or Violin) and Cello (or Bassoon). Duets. Music for Two. Gilbert & Sullivan, Irish, Rags. Intermediate/Advanced. Score with 2 parts. Published by Last Resort Music Publishing"

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Gilbert & Sullivan for Singers (The Vocal Library Mezzo-Soprano). By Sir Arthur Seymour Sullivan (1842-1900) and W.S. Gilbert. Arranged by Richard Walters. Vocal Collection. Play Along. Softcover with CD. 88 pages. Published by Hal Leonard

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Gilbert & Sullivan "(The World's Great Classical Music). For voice and piano. World's Greatest Classical Music. Broadway and Vocal Standards. Difficulty: medium. Vocal score. Vocal score, piano accompaniment, illustrations and introductory text. 336 pages. Published by Hal

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Gilbert & Sullivan for Singers (The Vocal Library Tenor). By Sir Arthur Seymour Sullivan (1842-1900) and W.S. Gilbert. Arranged by Richard Walters. Vocal Collection. Play Along. Softcover with CD. 88 pages. Published by Hal Leonard

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Gilbert & Sullivan Choruses (An Entirely Original Collection of 29 Favorites). By Sir Arthur Seymour Sullivan (1842-1900) and W.S. Gilbert. Choral. Softcover. 224 pages. Novello & Co Ltd. #NOV410135. Published by Novello & Co Ltd.

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"Gilbert & Sullivan Opera Choruses, Vol. 2" (SATB). By Gilbert and Sullivan. Edited by Ronald Corp. SATB. Faber Program Series. 32 pages. Published by Faber Music

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Princess Ida "(Vocal Score). By Gilbert and Sullivan. For Voice. Masterworks; Score; Vocal (Opera) Score. Faber Edition. Comic Opera, Operetta, Gilbert & Sullivan. Vocal Score. Published by Faber Music"

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"Music for Two, Volume 3 - Flute/Oboe/Violin and Flute/Oboe/Violin" "Arranged by Daniel Kelley. For Flute (or Oboe or Violin) and Flute (or Oboe or Violin). Duets. Music for Two. Gilbert & Sullivan, Irish, Rags. Intermediate/Advanced. Score with 2 parts. Published by Last Resort Music Publishing"

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Singer's Gilbert & Sullivan - Women's Edition (Book/CD Pak). By Sir Arthur Seymour Sullivan (1842-1900) and W.S. Gilbert. Vocal Collection. Play Along. Softcover with CD. 40 pages. Published by Hal Leonard

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Gilbert & Sullivan (Symphonic Suite) Arranged by Ted Ricketts. Score and full set of parts.. Hal Leonard Concert Band Series. Grade 4.. Grade 4. Published by Hal Leonard

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Gilbert & Sullivan Vol. 1 (Karaoke CDG) By Various Artists. By Gilbert and Sullivan. 1 disc. Broadway. Karaoke CDG. With lyric booklet. Published by Stage Stars Records

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"Music for Two, Volume 3 - Flute/Oboe/Violin and Viola" "Edited by Briana Ackerman. Arranged by Daniel Kelley. For Flute (or Oboe or Violin) and Viola. Duets. Music for Two. Gilbert & Sullivan, Irish, Rags. Intermediate/Advanced. Score with 2 parts. Published by Last Resort Music Publishing"

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"Music for Two, Volume 3 - Flute/Oboe and Clarinet" "Arranged by Daniel Kelley. For Flute (or Oboe) and Clarinet. Duets. Music for Two. Gilbert & Sullivan, Irish, Rags. Intermediate/Advanced. Score with 2 parts. Published by Last Resort Music Publishing"

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Gems from Gilbert & Sullivan "By Gilbert and Sullivan. Arranged by S. Westmeath. For flute, oboe, clarinet and bassoon. Winds. Score and set of parts. Published by Rosewood Publications"

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