Gilbert and Sullivan Archive

HIS MAJESTY

NOTES ON THE LIBRETTO

by Clifton Coles



Joseph Williams of London published the libretto and the vocal score for His Majesty in 1897. The version of the opera when it closed on April 24 is considerably different than the one presented on opening night on February 20. In an effort to tighten the show, the authors cut two numbers entirely and cut the second verses of several musical numbers. Missing from the later libretto are:
  • the second half of the opening chorus of Act I (beginning "Last Saturday an admiral who said he wouldn't knit");
  • another verse to King Ferdinand's entrance song (beginning "Zeno, Plato, Aristotle, I had got them in a bottle");
  • the second verse of the "Cross-Examination" duet;
  • all the solos for all the Courtiers that begins no. 8 ("He doesn't explain, I wish he would") leaving the chorus "It's a beard for you and a beard for me";
  • a second verse to Prince Max's serenade;
  • the Beard Chorus in Act I
  • two lines for Vincentius and the male chorus and ten lines for the female chorus in the Finale of Act I;
  • a duet for Ferdinand and Felice in Act II "What is this mysterious feeling"; and
  • a second verse to the duet for Boodel and Mopolio in Act II.

All this material appears in the vocal score, the primary source for the lyrics of the libretto in the Archive, and is included here.

The later libretto also adds a quartet for Felice, Chloris, Ferdinand, and Max toward the end of Act II and replaces Mopolio's song "I am a king who must not smile" with "I'm a model of a melancholy King." These numbers, including both of Mopolio's songs, are also included in the Archive's libretto.

I have had to make some choices regarding the dialogue that surrounds some of these numbers based on the available sources, but the result I hope is a coherent libretto.

Burnand (and Lehmann?) appended a six-page synopsis to the front of the earlier version of the libretto, wisely reducing it to a paragraph for the second version. The long version is not included in Archive's libretto.

Based on information in Selwyn Tillett's article on His Majesty published by the Sir Arthur Sullivan Society in 1996, there are two versions of the vocal score as well. He specifically notes the appearance of Mopolio's new song and the quartet mentioned above in the vocal score he looked at, both of which are absent from the vocal score I have been able to study.



Page created 21 January 2002