The Gilbert and Sullivan Operettas

Our group is dedicated to performing the joint works of Sir W.S. Gilbert (1836-1911), playwright and humorist, and Sir Arthur Sullivan (1842-1900), unofficial composer laureate of England and favorite of Queen Victoria. Together they wrote a series of fourteen comic operettas (including H.M.S. Pinafore, The Pirates of Penzance, and The Mikado) which were wildly popular in their own time and are still widely performed by amateur and professional groups today, over a hundred years after their creation.

These operettas were the forerunners of our modern musicals, and in many ways resemble them more than they do the grand operas. Their songs and choruses -- mostly light and comic in nature -- are interspersed with spoken dialogue rather than recitative. In fact, few if any of the performers in Gilbert and Sullivan's original productions were professional opera singers; some of the chorus members were even outright amateurs.

Though over a century old, the works of Gilbert and Sullivan are as fresh and sparkling today as the day they were written. Gilbert may have chosen specific aspects of Victorian society for his satire, but his wit is as relevant now as it ever was: "I always voted at my party's call / And I never thought of thinking for myself at all," sings Sir Joseph Porter in Pinafore, but the lines could as easily belong to most modern politicians.

Gilbert and Sullivan songs continue to turn up in places as diverse as episodes of "The Muppet Show" (Tit-Willow), "Animaniacs" (Three Little Maids from School, as well as much of The Pirates of Penzance), "The Simpsons" (selections from The Mikado and H.M.S. Pinafore ) and "Rumpole of the Bailey" (The Flowers that Bloom in the Spring, among others). As recently as 1982, Joseph Papp mounted a successful production of The Pirates of Penzance on Broadway, with Linda Ronstadt and Kevin Kline in two of the leading roles.

We are always on the lookout for new members. So come audition for us (near the beginning of each term), or join our orchestra or tech crew! If you have any questions about our group, or anything remotely relevant to it, please don't hesitate to contact us using this form.

Thespis 2004 photo courtesy of Sheldon Brown


The Gods on Mount Olympus are old and tired, so decide to take a vacation to earth while a group of traveling actors take their place. (Most of the music for this opera has been lost, so it is played today only in reconstructions using either other Sullivan music, or original music.) (Summary taken from the Gilbert and Sullivan archive.)

Opened 26 December 1871, Gaiety Theatre
Produced by MITG&SP Spring 2004 (left).

Trial by Jury

A woman sues her would-be husband for Breach of Promise of Marriage. (Gilbert and Sullivan's only one-act operetta.)

Opened 25 March 1875, Royalty Theatre
Produced by MITG&SP IAP 1998 (right).

At last, one morning, I became another's love-sick boy!

Trial by Jury 1998 photo

Sorcerer 2000 photo courtesy of Sheldon Brown

The Sorcerer

A young couple about to be married decide to share their happiness with the whole village by hiring a sorcerer to make a love potion to make everyone fall in love. Naturally, this backfires...

Opened 17 November 1877, Opera Comique Theatre, London
Produced by MITG&SP Fall 1989, Fall 1995, and Fall 2000 (left).
Photo by Sheldon Brown

Noisome hags of night, imps of deadly shade... Pallid ghosts, arise in hosts, and lend me all your aid!

H.M.S. Pinafore
or The Lass that Loved a Sailor

A lowly sailor and his Captain's beautiful daughter find their love thwarted by their differences in rank, an evil shipmate, and an incompetent Lord.

Opened 25 May 1878, Opera Comique Theatre, London
Produced by MITG&SP Fall 1990, Fall 1996, and Fall 2002 (right).
Photo by Sheldon Brown

Let's give three cheers for the sailor's bride, who casts all thought of rank aside...

H.M.S. Pinafore 2001 photo courtesy of Sheldon Brown

Pirates of Penzance 2002 photo courtesy of Elizabeth Lear

The Pirates of Penzance
or The Slave of Duty

Young Frederic, finally free of his apprenticeship to a band of pirates, falls in love with Mabel, the daugher of a Major-General. Unfortunately, the Pirate King and the nurserymaid he scorned take advantage of his sense of duty to keep him from enjoying his newfound happiness for long...

New York premiere 31 December 1879, Fifth Avenue Theater
London premiere 3 April 1880, Opera Comique Theater
Produced by MITG&SP Fall 1988, Fall 1993, Spring 1998, and Fall 2002 (left).
Photo by Elizabeth Lear

To gain a brief advantage you've contrived...

or Bunthorne's Bride

The dragoons love the ladies, but all the ladies love Bunthorne, the self-absorbed Aesthetic - except for Patience, the dairy maid he loves. Until, of course, an even more Aesthetic Aesthetic comes along and steals them away...

Opened 23 April 1881, Opera Comique Theatre, London
Produced by MITG&SP Spring 1989, Spring 1997 (right), and Spring 2006.
Photo by Sheldon Brown

Instead of rushing eagerly to cherish us and foster us, they all prever this melancholy literary man!

Patience 1997 photo courtesy of Sheldon Brown

Iolanthe 1999 photo courtesy of Sheldon Brown

or The Peer and the Peri

Iolanthe, a fairy, is allowed to return after being banished for the crime of marrying a mortal. Unfortunately, her half-human, half-fairy son is having some difficulty with the Lord Chancellor, who will not grant permission for him to marry Phyllis. But the fairies agree to help him, despite the opposition of the entire British Parliament!

Opened 25 November 1882, Savoy Theater, London and Standard Theater, New York
Produced by MITG&SP Spring 1990, Spring 1995, Fall 1999 (left), and Fall 2004 (right).
Photos by Sheldon Brown and Karl Ramm

When next your houses do assemble...
you may tremble!

Iolanthe 2004 photo courtesy of Karl Ramm

Princess Ida 2000 photo courtesy of Sheldon Brown

Princess Ida
or Castle Adamant

Prince Hilarion and his father, King Hildebrand, await the arrival of Princess Ida (to whom he was betrothed as an infant) and her father King Gama. But Gama arrives without his daughter -- she has founded a women's University, and given up the company of men! But Hilarion and his friends determine to infiltrate the University, dressed as women...

Opened 5 January 1884, Savoy Theatre, London
Produced by MITG&SP Spring 1992, and Spring 2000 (left and right).
Photos by Sheldon Brown

Release Hilarion, then, and be his bride,
Or you'll incur the guilt of fratricide!

Princess Ida 2000 photo courtesy of Sheldon Brown

Mikado 1998 photo courtesy of Sheldon Brown

The Mikado
or The Town of Titipu

The son of the Mikado of Japan, disguised as a wandering minstrel in order to escape his father's order to marry the elderly Katisha, finds that the girl he loves is to engaged to be married to the Lord High Executioner of Titipu. But that's the least of his worries when his father at Katisha show up searching for him.

Opened 14 March 1885, Savoy Theatre, London
Produced by MITG&SP Spring 1991, Fall 1994, Fall 1998 (left), and Fall 2005.
Photo by Sheldon Brown

Now, let's see about your execution -- will after luncheon suit you?

or The Witch's Curse

Young Robin Oakapple and Sweet Rose Maybud are in love, but too shy to tell each other until Robin's foster-brother, Richard Dauntless (a sailor) woos her himself. But Young Robin is secretly none other than Sir Ruthven Murgatroyd, Baronet of Ruddigore -- the latest in a noble line cursed to do an evil deed each and every day, or be tortured to death by the ghosts of his ancestors!

Opened 22 January 1887, Savoy Theatre, London
Produced by MITG&SP Fall 1992, Fall 1997 (right), and Fall 2003.
Photo by Sheldon Brown

Hold, bride and bridegroom, ere you wed each other -- I claim young Robin as my elder brother!

Ruddigore 1997 photo courtesy of Sheldon Brown

Yeomen of the Guard 1999 photo courtesy of Sheldon Brown

The Yeomen of the Guard
or The Merryman and his Maid

Colonel Fairfax, sentenced to die in an hour on a false charge of sorcery, marries Elsie Maynard, a strolling singer. But then he escapes, causing complications. At the end Elsie's boyfriend, Jack Point, dies of a broken heart. Or does he? The nearest that Gilbert and Sullivan working together came to grand opera. (Summary taken from the Gilbert and Sullivan archive.)

Opened 3 October 1888, Savoy Theatre, London
Produced by MITG&SP Fall 1991, Spring 1999 (left), and Spring 2005.
Photo by Sheldon Brown

I have a song to sing, O!
Sing me your song, O!

The Gondoliers
or The King of Barataria

Two Venetian gondoliers marry -- then learn that one of them is the King of Barataria, and was married in infancy to Casilda, daughter of the Duke of Plaza-Toro. Unfortunately, nobody knows which of them is the king...

Gondoliers 2002 photo courtesy of Emily Hanna

Opened 7 December 1889, Savoy Theater, London
Produced by MITG&SP Spring 1994 and Spring 2002 (above).
Photo by Sherman Hanna

Come, let's away - our island crown awaits me...
but leaving thee behind me breaks my heart!

Utopia, Limited
or The Flowers of Progress

Princess Zara of the Kingdom of Utopia returns from England, bringing with her the Flowers of Progress to teach the naive Utopians how to make their country as great and glorous as England. Yet, somehow, everything doesn't quite seem right...

Opened 7 October 1893, Savoy Theatre, London
Produced by MITG&SP Spring 1996 (right) and Spring 2003.
Photo by Sheldon Brown

In short, this happy country has been Anglicized completely!

Utopia, Limited 1996 photo courtesy of Sheldon Brown

Grand Duke 2001 photo courtesy of Sheldon Brown

The Grand Duke
or The Statutory Duel

As leading comedian Ludwig prepares to marry the soubrette, Lisa, their company achieves an opportunity to act on their conspiracy to overthrow the Grand Duke of Pfennig-Halbfennig, and Ludwig becomes the Grand Duke. Unfortunately, several other women have a prior claim on the Grand Duke's hand in marriage!

Opened 7 March 1896, Savoy Theatre, London
Produced by MITG&SP Spring 1993 and Spring 2001 (left).
Photo by Sheldon Brown

Allow me to present your new grand duchess. Should she offend, you'll graciously excuse her, and kindly recollect -- I didn't choose her!