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Gilbert & Sullivan

The songwriting team of William S. Gilbert and Arthur Sullivan was among the most successful and enduring of the 19th century; their comic operas remain immensely popular over a century after the duo's final work, and are viewed today as forerunners of contemporary musical theater. Lyricist Gilbert was born in London on November 18, 1836; the son of a retired naval surgeon, he was kidnapped by Italian brigands at the age of two, but upon his release, he settled into a rather unremarkable childhood, eventually joining the militia. After first accepting a government bureau job, Gilbert later spent a few years as a barrister, and in 1861, he began contributing humor and dramatic criticism to the popular British publication Fun under the pseudonym "Bab; " a collection of his work for the magazine was published in 1869 as The Bab Ballads, and a number of his stories' characters later served as the direct inspiration for his musical work.

Sullivan was born in Lambeth, London on May 13, 1842; the product of a musical family -- his father was a bandmaster at the Royal Military College -- while still a pre-teen he mastered all of the wind instruments in the band, composing his own anthem at the age of eight. At age 14, he won the first Mendelssohn Scholarship, later winning other scholarships to attend a number of prominent academies and conservatories; in Germany, Franz Liszt even listened to his final thesis. Sullivan returned to England at age 20, where he wrote The Tempest to great acclaim before spending the next decade as a professor of music, a teacher, and an organist. In addition to composing "Onward Christian Soldiers," he also penned several major choral works, including The Light of the World, The Martyr of Antioch, The Golden Legend, and his one grand opera, Ivanhoe. With writer F.C. Brunand, Sullivan then ventured into comic opera with 1867's Cox and Box, swiftly followed by The Contrabandista.

Gilbert & Sullivan first teamed in 1871 for Thespis, which ran only briefly and garnered little attention; however, in 1875 they were reunited by impresario Richard D'Oyly Carte for Trial by Jury, which ran for 300 performances. It was followed in 1877 by The Sorcerer; in 1878, the smash hit H.M.S. Pinafore premiered, running for close to 600 performances and establishing Gilbert & Sullivan among the eminent creative teams of the day. Their operettas predated the musical theater of the next century by interspersing light, comic songs with spoken dialogue, not the recitative variety more common to the era's operas; in fact, their productions rarely utilized professional singers, instead opting for amateur performers. They followed H.M.S. Pinafore with another rousing success, 1880's The Pirates of Penzance; 1881's Patience was another triumph, with Iolanthe following on its heels a year later.

Upon completing 1884's Princess Ida, Gilbert & Sullivan began work on the following year's The Mikado, widely acknowledged as both their most successful production, and among the most popular operas ever staged. The supernatural Ruddigore became the subject of controversy on its 1887 premiere; it was followed in 1888 by The Yeomen of the Guard, with The Gondoliers bowing the next year. After close to four years away from the stage, Gilbert & Sullivan resurfaced in 1893 with Utopia, Limited; The Grand Duke, their final collaboration, was first performed in 1896, ending an often-quarrelsome partnership encompassing a quarter-of-a-century and 14 comic operas. In 1883, Sullivan was knighted by Queen Victoria; after a long illness, he died on November 22, 1900. Gilbert, too, was knighted, by King Edward VII in 1907; he died on March 29, 1911 while attempting to save a drowning woman. ~ Jason Ankeny
full bio

Selected Discography

x

Track List: Gilbert & Sullivan - The Mikado / WNO · Mackerras

Title: The Mikado (The Town Of Titipu), Operetta
x

Track List: Gilbert & Sullivan: The Pirates Of Penzance

Disc 1
Title: The Pirates Of Penzance, Operetta

1. The Pirates Of Penzance, Operetta: Overture

2. The Pirates Of Penzance, Operetta: Pour, Oh Pour The Pirate Sherry

3. The Pirates Of Penzance, Operetta: When Fred'ric Was A Little Lad

4. The Pirates Of Penzance, Operetta: Oh, Better To Live And Die

5. The Pirates Of Penzance, Operetta: Oh, False One, You Have Deceived Me

6. The Pirates Of Penzance, Operetta: Climbing Over Rocky Mountain

7. The Pirates Of Penzance, Operetta: Stop! Ladies, Pray! A Man!

8. The Pirates Of Penzance, Operetta: Oh, Is There Not One Maiden Breast

9. The Pirates Of Penzance, Operetta: Oh, Sisters, Deaf To Pity's Name, For Shame!

10. The Pirates Of Penzance, Operetta: Poor Wand'ring One!

11. The Pirates Of Penzance, Operetta: What Ought We To Do, Gentle Sisters, Say?

12. The Pirates Of Penzance, Operetta: How Beautifully Blue The Sky

13. The Pirates Of Penzance, Operetta: Stay, We Must Not Lose Our Senses

14. The Pirates Of Penzance, Operetta: Hold, Monsters!

15. The Pirates Of Penzance, Operetta: I Am The Very Model Of A Modern Major-general

Disc 2

1. The Pirates Of Penzance, Operetta: Oh, Men Of Dark And Dismal Fate

2. The Pirates Of Penzance, Operetta: Hail Poetry, Thou Heav'n Born Maid!

3. The Pirates Of Penzance, Operetta: You May Go, For You're At Liberty

4. The Pirates Of Penzance, Operetta: Pray Observe The Magnanimity

5. The Pirates Of Penzance, Operetta: Oh, Dry The Glist'ning Tear

6. The Pirates Of Penzance, Operetta: Then Frederic

7. The Pirates Of Penzance, Operetta: When The Foeman Bares His Steel

8. The Pirates Of Penzance, Operetta: Now For The Pirates Lair!

9. The Pirates Of Penzance, Operetta: When You Had Left Our Pirate Fold

10. The Pirates Of Penzance, Operetta: Away, Away, My Heart's On Fire

11. The Pirates Of Penzance, Operetta: All Is Prepared

12. The Pirates Of Penzance, Operetta: Stay, Fred'ric Stay!

13. The Pirates Of Penzance, Operetta: Ah, Leave Me Not Pine Alone And Desolate

14. The Pirates Of Penzance, Operetta: Oh, Here Is Love And Here Is Truth

15. The Pirates Of Penzance, Operetta: No, I'll Be Brave

16. The Pirates Of Penzance, Operetta: Sergeant Approach

17. The Pirates Of Penzance, Operetta: When A Felon's Not Engaged In His Employment

18. The Pirates Of Penzance, Operetta: A Rollicking Band Of Pirates We

19. The Pirates Of Penzance, Operetta: With Catlike Tread

20. The Pirates Of Penzance, Operetta: Hush! Hush! Not A Word

21. The Pirates Of Penzance, Operetta: Sighing Softly To The River

22. The Pirates Of Penzance, Operetta: Now What Is This, And What Is That

23. The Pirates Of Penzance, Operetta: We Triumph Now

24. The Pirates Of Penzance, Operetta: Away With Them, And Place Them At The Bar

25. The Pirates Of Penzance, Operetta: Poor Wand'ring Ones, Though Ye Have Surely Strayed

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