Princess Ida


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"Princess Ida, or Castle Adamant" opened on 5 January 1884 at the Savoy Theatre and ran for 246 performances. It is the only three act Gilbert and Sullivan Opera and the only one with dialogue in blank verse. This is because Gilbert based his libretto on his earlier play The Princess which, in turn, he described as "a perversion" of Tennyson's poem of the same name.

It was produced between Iolanthe and The Mikado when its creators were at the height of their powers. The score is Sullivan at his best, and some people consider that Gilbert's libretto contains some of his funniest lines.

Prince Hilarion had been married in babyhood to Princess Ida, daughter of King Gama. The Princess, however, has set up a college for women from which all men are barred. Hilarion and his friends infiltrate the castle and ultimately the men, led by Hilarion's father, King Hildebrand, stage a full-scale invasion. Ida is abandoned by her women and finally surrenders to her Prince.

The Words
 Plot Summary
Early D'Oyly Carte Prompt Book at the V&A Museum
Design for Princess Ida's costume by Percy Anderson, 1921
Click on picture to enlarge

The Music

To The Web Opera


All the Music and all the Lyrics of this opera

Illustrated with historic photographs of
D'Oyly Carte Opera Company Productions

Design for King Hildebrand's costume by James Wade, 1954
Click on picture to enlarge
Vocal Score: The Gilbert and Sullivan Archive Edition. New performing edition of the vocal score of Gilbert and Sullivan's Princess Ida including all the spoken dialogue. The earliest published sources have been consulted whilst compiling this edition, but it takes account of the performing tradition of the D'Oyly Carte Opera Company, and it includes the spoken dialogue. The accompaniment has been partly revised to reflect important orchestral passages previously neglected by published scores. The score is annotated where it deviates in substance from the score and libretto published in the authors' lifetimes.
PDF of an early 20th century Chappell Vocal Score [9.84MB]
Other Sources of Princess Ida Scores
Dance Arrangements
Discography: Marc Shepherd's Princess Ida Discography
A historical overview of Ida recordings through the years, by Michael Walters.
1924 HMV D'Oyly Carte Recording [from the Internet Archive]
1932 D'Oyly Carte HMV recording [from the Internet Archive]
Score errata. Steven Lichtenstein has compiled a list of errata in two editions of the Chappell vocal score.
  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.

Early Productions

First Night Cast
Programmes from the original production:
Early Reviews
A chapter on Princess Ida from the book Gilbert and Sullivan Opera, A History and a Comment, by H. M. Walbrook, published in London in 1922.

1954 Revival

Reviews, pictures and cast list of the 1954 D'Oyly Carte production staged at the Savoy theatre on 27 September 1954.
Music Cover

Eight watercolors by W. Russell Flint.
Illustrated Music Cover: Princess Ida Quadrille
Bab drawings illustrating Princess Ida. Scanned graphics files of Gilbert's own drawings
Illustrated Music Covers

The Prototypes: Tennyson's Poem and Gilbert's Play

Tennyson's poem The Princess, which was the basis for Gilbert's 1870 play The Princess.
Set Design, Act II, D'Oyly Carte 1939
Click on picture to enlarge
From Tennyson to Gilbert. David Fidler has compared Tennyson's poem The Princess with Gilbert's Princess Ida and shown how Gilbert modified Tennyson's ideas and characters when making his operatic perversion of the Poet Laureate's original.
Gilbert's 1870 play with music The Princess, from which Princess Ida was derived.
Marc Shepherd has prepared a new comparative edition of the Princess Ida and Princess librettos [Zipped Word Document, 88KB] with the text of The Princess on the left side of the page, that of Princess Ida on the right. Where Gilbert deleted material in the transition from play to opera, the right side of the page is blank. Where Gilbert added material to the opera, the left side is blank. Where there is writing on both sides of the page, you can readily see how Gilbert modified (and, in most cases, improved upon) the dialogue from his earlier play.


Transcript of a discussion of Princess Ida by members of the SavoyNet distribution list. This extensive discussion provides substantial background information on this opera, and is a must for anyone wanting to understand it better, produce it, or perform in it. Compiled by Sarah Mankowski.

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