The Grand Duke


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The Grand Duke, or The Statutory Duel opened on March 7, 1896 at the Savoy Theatre, London. This last G&S opera ran for only 123 performances.

In the Grand Duke, Gilbert and Sullivan come full circle, back to the theme of their first collaboration: A troupe of actors takes political power. The Grand Duke suffers from many of the same problems as Utopia Limited — it has a long and rambling libretto — and it calls for more principal quality voices than the typical G&S opera. Nevertheless, the story contains a number of hilarious moments and funny characters, the settings are colourful and the music is cheery and flavourful. Some find this opera to be the most underrated of the G&S works.

Ludwig, an actor, replaces the company manager, Ernest, and then he replaces the miserly Grand Duke Rudolph of Pfennig Halbpfennig, after "killing" each of them by drawing the ace from a deck of cards in two "statutory" duels. By winning the statutory duels, Ludwig assumes all of Ernest's and Rudolph's rights and obligations. Soon he finds himself with far more wives, and prospective wives, than he knows what to do with. Never fear: once again, a lawyer solves the problem and all ends happily.


  • Plot Summary: Brief or more detailed summary.
  • A chapter on The Grand Duke from the book Gilbert and Sullivan Opera, A History and a Comment, by H. M. Walbrook, published in London in 1922.

The Words

The Music

To the Web Opera

All the Music
All the Lyrics
from this Opera

Illustrated with Historical Photographs of the
Original Production

  • Discography: Marc Shepherd's Grand Duke Discography
  • Scores: Sources of Grand Duke Scores
  • Chappell Piano/Vocal Score Errata by Steven Lichtenstein.
  • Marc Shepherd's Vocal Score of The Grand Duke. Marc has now completed the revisions of his score. It is available in two versions: the "full" version, with introduction and critical apparatus and a performer's edition which omits these. Both versions can be had as free downloads from Lulu, or they can be ordered printed and bound.
  • Dance arrangements
  • Illustrated Music Covers
  • Swan Song: The Music of the Grand Duke, by Dan Rothermel, Music Director, The Savoy Company, Philadelphia. In his analysis of the music of the Grand Duke, Mr. Rothermel argues that although the score of The Grand Duke had been virtually ignored for many years, it actually reveals Sullivan at his best.
  • Musical Solutions — G&S MIDI Rehearsal Files — David Cookson's site includes MIDI rehearsal files for all the G&S Operas, plus Cox and Box and Haddon Hall.

Original Production

Background Material

  • Bab Illustrations: Gilbert's own drawings illustrating songs from the opera.
  • Discussion: Transcript of a discussion of The Grand Duke by members of the SavoyNet Distribution List
    (revised March 1998)
  • The Last Centenary: An assessment of The Grand Duke by Paul McShane.
  • PRODUCTION NOTES: Production notes and modified dialogue pages have been prepared by the Gilbert & Sullivan Very Light Opera Company of Minneapolis, Minnesota. They include information on where to get scores and orchestration, errata, general notes, and some very careful cuts (including a complete rewriting of the ending.) These notes and revised pages refer to the Chappell score for Grand Duke, which must be purchased separately. These materials are not copyrighted. The company encourages G&S companies to use this material and to pass it on to others.

Opening graphic by Tyson Vick   | Opening remarks by Sam Silvers

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Page modified 24 April 2015