You are here: Archive Home > Iolanthe > Gilbert and Sullivan's New Comic Opera
The Gilbert and Sullivan Archive   Iolanthe

From The Era (London, England), Saturday, February 11, 1882; Issue 2264


Mr. Arthur Sullivan is at Cairo working at the score of the new comic opera which is to follow Patience, which, however, still proves extremely attractive at the Savoy Theatre. Mr. Gilbert in London sends the libretto to Mr. Sullivan in Egypt, and it is expected that the opera will be completed by the end of March, or the beginning of April.

Lovers of Messrs. Gilbert and Sullivan's delightful combinations will naturally be curious to know what the next subject is. They have had a sorcerer in the first opera, sailors in the second, and pirates in the third, while the worshippers of æstheticism have been caricatured in the last. In the next opera they will quit the world of mortals for a time to revel in fairyland.

Twenty-five years before the piece commences a fairy has committed the indiscretion of marrying a mortal. This by fairy law is death, but the queen of the fairies commuted the sentence to banishment for life among the mortals, on condition that she leave her husband and never reveal herself to him again. Soon after a son is born unto her. This son is half fairy, half mortal, being fairy down to the waist — a real idol with feet of clay. He is educated as a mortal should be, and called to the Bar, where his progress proves so remarkable, owing to the cleverness and the exceptional integrity with which he conducts his profession, that in a few years he rises to the rank of Attorney-General. True to her promise, the mother, although she sees the father, never allows herself to be seen by him until an incident which shows that the mother's love to her child is stronger than the love for her own life, makes her break her vow. She reveals herself to him, although the penalty for the act is death.

The fact is that father and son love the same girl, and the father, fancying his wife to be dead, contemplates marrying the girl. The mother, after having in vain tried in disguise to persuade the father to give in for the sake of his son, as a last resource unveils her face and tells him, "Behold, you cannot marry. I am your wife?" The skill and taste with which the fairy, representing the noblest sentiments, is led through the piece, with æsthetic grace, is only what could be expected from the skilful and satirical pen of the author. The climax will be a surprise, but we are not yet permitted to reveal it. Possibly the author himself has not quite made up his mind as to the dénouement.

From The Morning Post (London, England), Monday, June 19, 1882; pg. 2; Issue 34316.

Messrs. Gilbert and Sullivan are at work on a new comic opera. Its scheme of structure is funny enough, for the principal character is a Lord Chancellor who falls in love with his own ward, and who is consequently compelled to obtain his own consent to his union with her, and to satisfy himself that he is all that he should be.

From the Glasgow Herald (Glasgow, Scotland), Thursday, October 12, 1882; Issue 244.
[Substantially the same report was carried by The Pall Mall Gazette (London, England), Tuesday, October 10, 1882; Issue 5495.]

I am now able (writes "Atlas" in yesterday's World) to supplement the particulars I gave last week of Messrs. Gilbert and Sullivan's new opera "Perola," by stating that it is only intended to give one representation of the piece in England until "Patience" ceases to draw money in London. This must be done, in consequence of the unsatisfactory state of international copyright law, on the same day as the first performance in America, where the opera is to be "put on" about six weeks hence. It will be remembered that "The Pirates" was produced in this way at Paignton; and some people have named that pretty little town on the Devonshire coast as the place for the first production of "Perola." As all the performers now rehearsing are engaged at the Savoy Theatre, this would be impossible. A matinée will be given at an outside London theatre, probably Greenwich. On that occasion the cast of the principal characters will be as follows: —

Perola  Miss Jessie Bond
Phyllis (the Ward in Chancery Miss Leonora Braham
Queen of the Fairies  Miss Alice Barnett
The Lord Chancellor  Mr. George Grossmith
Strephon (son of the Lord Chancellor and Perola Mr. Richard Temple
Lord Mountararat  Mr. Rutland Barrington
Lord Tolloller  Mr. Durward Lely

The part of the Sentry, which has a capital song, with the refrain —

"Every little Briton which is born alive
Is a little Liberal or Conservative."

has been offered to Mr. Walter Browne, but it is not yet settled whether he will play it.

There is no part in the piece for Mr. Frank Thornton. It was intended that he should remain as understudy for Mr. Grossmith; but this position he has declined, and consequently he will sever for a time his connection with the Savoy Theatre. I understand, however, that this clever young actor, who has several times played Bunthorne in Mr. Grossmith's absence, is to have an important place in one of Mr, D'Oyly Carte's provincial or American companies.

Mr, Grossmith's principal song in "Perola" is entitled "The Highly-susceptible Chancellor." It describes how the Lord Chancellor becomes worn out with his exertion to gain his own permission to marry his ward; and he has a dream, the details of which are told in a string of humorous words, written by Mr. Gilbert specially to suit Mr. Grossmith's peculiar style. Another good song in the piece is "Blue Blood," intrusted to Mr. Lely. It commences, "Spurn not the nobly born," and declares that "hearts can beat as true in Belgrave Square as in the Severn Dials." It is topsy-turvical fun is characteristic of the author.

From the Glasgow Herald (Glasgow, Scotland), Monday, October 9, 1882; Issue 241.

We have the best reason to believe that Messrs. Sullivan and Gilbert's ne opera will be produced at the Savoy Theatre in about six weeks' time — probably November 18 — although the date is not yet definitely fixed. The scene is laid chiefly in St. James's Park, and the title of the piece is not yet finally decided upon. Mr. Arthur Sullivan will conduct the first performance.

From the Nottinghamshire Guardian (London, England), Friday, October 13, 1882; pg. 3; Issue 1951.

It appears that, with the exception of the detail that Mr. George Grossmith is to play the Lord Chancellor in Messrs. Gilbert and Sullivan's new comic opera, now in preparation at the Savoy, the particulars published in several newspapers are misleading. According to The World, the title is "Perola," Mr. Gilbert believing in the magic of the initial "P":—

The first act is laid in St. James's Park, and the second in Palace Yard, the sentry outside the Houses of Parliament being a prominent figure in that scene. The name of the hero is Strephon, a being half-fairy and half-mortal. His fairy qualities, inherited from his mother, Perola, unfortunately terminate at the waist. This idea has already been worked out by Mr. Gilbert in a story, with a most laughable result. Strephon can render himself invisible only to a limited extent; he can pass his body through a keyhole, but his legs stick on the other side. Despite his deficiencies, however, he is elected member of Parliament, and commences to reform the Constitution, one of his first measures being for the creation of "peers of the realm" by competitive examination. The second act deals with many of the political questions of the day in a highly original manner. The honours of the chorus are divided between fairies and peers, who, of course, fall in love with each other and are ultimately united. Mr. Sullivan's music is said to be more charming than anything he has yet written.

From the Nottinghamshire Guardian (London, England), Friday, November 03, 1882; pg. 3; Issue 1954.

Mr. Anderson is my authority for saying that the two scenes in Messrs. Gilbert and Sullivan's new opera comprise "A Fairy Glen" and "Exterior of the House of Commons." The music he says reminds the listener of "Trial by Jury," and there is one song strongly suggestive of "God Save the Queen!" Mr. Gilbert is said to be very much annoyed at the gossip about his piece, and has posted up a notice to the company not to tell tales out of the theatre.

From the Birmingham Daily Post (Birmingham, England), Monday, November 13, 1882; Issue 7601.

The production of Messrs. Gilbert and Sullivan's new opera at the Savoy is fixed for Saturday week, the 25th instant. Its tiltle will not, as has been stated, be "Perola," but will, it is said, be "Eleanthe." [sic]

From the Glasgow Herald (Glasgow, Scotland), Monday, November 20, 1882; Issue 277.

Next Saturday, Messrs. Sullivan and Gilbert's new operetta "Iolanthe" will be produced at the Savoy. It is understood that a paragraph about the ballet girls wearing incandescent electric lights in their hair was put forward ion a society paper as a sort of suggestion to see how it would be taken. The Lancet, however, warmly protests against it, and there is no doubt the unlucky ballet girls will run an eminent risk of their lives. If the silk covering of the connecting wires slips or becomes worn nothing can save these unfortunate supers from instant death. It is suggested that "the electric business" should be stopped by the Home Office rather than by the Department of the Lord Chamberlain.

Archive Home  |  Iolanthe

   Page modified 16 November, 2011 Copyright © 2011 The Gilbert and Sullivan Archive All Rights Reserved.