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.