by Ian Bond
This little one act musical folly was shrouded in mystery for many years. Obviously overshadowed by the première of Trial by Jury just three months earlier, The Zoo opened on 5 June, 1875, at the St. James' Theatre, transferred to the Haymarket on 28 June and finally closed on 10 July.
This was not the end of the work's performance history as it was revived on 2 October
1875 at the Philharmonic Theatre where it ran for a further month, and then reappeared again
at the Royalty Theatre on 14 April 1879 where it ran until 3 May.
That Sullivan himself must have thought something of this little piece is evidenced by the fact that the composer, when a revival was being considered in 1877, asked his great
friend Andy Cole, if he would be interested in rewriting the libretto. This was obviously never done.
After the 1879 revival, the manuscript disappeared from view for almost 90 years, and many writers, without any foundation for their comments, insisted that the music of this delightful piece had been reused by Sullivan in his later works with Gilbert and with others.
Dr. Terence Rees was able to dispel this myth when, in 1966, he purchased the manuscript
score (which had resurfaced in an auction room), and found the piece intact, and that
no material had been reused. Thanks to Dr. Rees' efforts and the efforts of a number
of other enthusiasts, The Zoo once again took to the stage in a hilarious production by Fulham Light Opera in 1971, and has since become popular amongst Gilbert and Sullivan
companies as a curtain raiser to the shorter operas.
Although never revived professionally on stage, the D'Oyly Carte opera company made a
complete recording of the work in 1978 which has since been transferred to Compact Disc as
a partner for the same company's 1967 recording of The Sorcerer. The Zoo has also been recorded by the B.B.C., and broadcast on a number of occasions.
B.C. Stephenson, writing on this occasion under the pseudonym of 'Bolton Rowe', is perhaps better known as the librettist of the comic opera Dorothy, which gave The Mikado such a run for it's money in 1885-7.
The original cast of The Zoo was as follows:
Carboy - Carlos Florentine
Thomas Brown - Edgar Bruce
Mr. Grinder - Charles Styne
Letitia - Gertrude Ashton
Eliza Smith - Henrietta Hodson
SOURCES OF SCORES
- The vocal score of The Zoo is published by:
6 Whitelands Avenue, Chorleywood
Rickmansworth, Herts, WD3 5RD
Phone: 44 (0)1923-283600
R. Clyde also hires out orchestral parts.
- WVD Press publishes a new edition of the conductor's score and orchestral parts of The Zoo.