Browse Exhibits (7 total)

Arthur Sullivan


Arthur Sullivan was born May 18, 1842 in London, His father, Thomas Sullivan was a bandmaster at the Royal Military College.  After attending the Chapel Royal, in 1856, the Royal Academy of Music, recognizing his extraordinary musical talent, awarded him the first Mendelssohn Scholarship.  This permitted him to study first at the Academy and then at the Leipzig Conservatoire.  Upon his return from Germany, his incidental music to Shakespeare's The Tempest, performed at the Crystal Palace, made him an overnight celebrity.  His early works included a symphony, a ballet, as well as oratorio, ballads, and church music.  His first venture into comic opera was the one-act Cox and Box, or The Long-lost Brothers, in 1866. It was written for private performance.  Sullivan was knighted in 1883 for his contributions to British music.  He continued to work on “serious” music throughout his life, including his grand opera Ivanhoe, produced in 1891.  He died on November 22, 1900, and was buried in St. Paul’s Cathedral by order of the Queen.

Featured here are exhibit items pertaining to Arthur Sullivan, his life, and his choral, orchestral, and vocal music, as well as his operas with writers other than W. S. Gilbert.


W.S. Gilbert


W. S. Gilbert was born November 18, 1836, in London, the son of a former naval surgeon. During his childhood Gilbert traveled extensively throughout Europe with his parents, receiving his early education in France. Gilbert displayed an interest in literature and theater at an early age. When his family returned to London he continued his schooling at the Great Ealing School and then King’s College. In 1861, after brief careers as a barrister and government clerk, Gilbert turned his attention to writing light prose, verse, theatre reviews, and articles for a number of British journals, most notably the humor magazine Fun, to which he contributed the bulk of his comic poems, famously known as the “Bab” Ballads.  These were frequently accompanied by his own grotesque cartoon illustrations. In 1866, his career as a dramatist was launched with the successful production of a burlesque entitled Dulcamara, or the Little Duck and the Great Quack.  In all, Gilbert wrote over 75 works for the stage throughout his life, including the fourteen operas with Arthur Sullivan.  He was knighted in 1907 for his contributions as a dramatic author.  Gilbert died on May 29, 1911, at his Grim’s Dyke estate.

Featured here are exhibit items pertaining to W. S. Gilbert, his career as a comic journalist, and his many works for the stage apart from his collaboration with Sullivan.

Richard D’Oyly Carte and the D'Oyly Carte Opera Company


Richard D’Oyly Carte was born May 3, 1844, in London, the son of Richard Carte and Eliza Jones.  After completing his education at University College he joined his father’s musical instrument and music publishing firm, Rudall, Carte & Co. Carte’s career before Gilbert & Sullivan also included working as a composer.  Three of his light operas—Dr. Ambrosius: His Secret (1868), Marie (1871), and Happy Hampstead (1877)—were published in London before Carte turned his attention to his true calling as a theatrical agent and theatre impresario.  In 1875, Carte united Gilbert & Sullivan to produce Trial by Jury to follow an Offenbach opera at the Royalty Theatre.  Together with his second wife, Helen Lenoir, Carte nurtured the collaborators through the creation of twelve full-length operas between 1877 and 1896, and built the Savoy Theatre in London’s Strand for their productions.

Featured here are exhibit items pertaining to Richard D’Oyly Carte and the early years of the D’Oyly Carte Opera Company.

The D’Oyly Carte Opera Company in the Twentieth Century


The D’Oyly Carte Opera Company toured continually throughout the 20th Century until its closure in February 1982.  The Company returned to London for occasional repertory seasons, the first at the Savoy Theatre in 1906-07.  Gilbert directed the first two repertory seasons and was honored as “Guest of the Evening” at a lavish Savoyard Celebration Dinner during the first season.  Over the years, most operas were updated and replaced with new sets and costumes.  Souvenir programs marked these events.  

Featured here are exhibit items about the D’Oyly Carte Opera Company in the 20th Century.

Gilbert and Sullivan and the Operas in the UK and Europe


W. S. Gilbert and Arthur Sullivan’s first operatic collaboration was a Christmas piece for the Gaiety Theatre, London, in 1871, called Thespis, or The Gods Grown Old. Although the result was a success, the pair did not work together again until 1875 with Trial by Jury at the Royalty Theater. Then, under the management of Richard D’Oyly Carte, they produced a string of successes—The Sorcerer (1877), H.M.S. Pinafore (1878), The Pirates of Penzance (1879), Patience (1881), Iolanthe (1882), Princess Ida (1884), The Mikado (1885), Ruddigore (1887), The Yeomen of the Guard (1888), and The Gondoliers (1889) at the Opera Comique and, beginning in 1882, the Savoy. A rift between Gilbert and Carte (reluctantly backed by Sullivan), known as the “carpet quarrel,” severed the relationship for a time. Gilbert and Sullivan were reunited in 1893 (for Utopia Limited) and again in 1896 (for The Grand Duke), but neither of these operas succeeded their predecessors.

Featured here are exhibit items from each Gilbert and Sullivan opera from Thespis through The Grand Duke. In addition, they include memorabilia from Continental productions of The Mikado, the one opera to attain real popularity in non-English speaking countries.

Gilbert and Sullivan Productions in America


As the Gilbert and Sullivan operas thrived in London and throughout the British Isles, they inevitably made their way to America.  H.M.S. Pinafore arrived in Boston as a pirated production in November 1878 and soon took the nation by storm.  The absence of copyright protection gave American companies free-rein to do with the work as they would.  The “Pinafore craze” ran throughout 1879, and it wasn’t until December of that year that Gilbert, Sullivan, and Carte brought their own Pinafore to America, and with it their next opera—The Pirates of Penzance, the only opera to premiere in New York, rather than London.

Featured here are programs, photographs, prints, posters, and souvenirs from the Gilbert and Sullivan operas in North America.

Toys, Souvenirs, and Ephemera


As the Gilbert and Sullivan operas—most notably H.M.S. Pinafore, Patience, and The Mikado—enjoyed tremendous success across America, elements of the productions soon found their way into the popular culture lexicon, and appeared in a variety of advertising and consumer items.  Gilbert and Sullivan received no benefit from these unauthorized adaptations of their work.

Featured here are children’s toys and games, ceramics, parodies, prints, trade cards, cigar labels, and other advertising for household products.