The Grand Duke
The very first callaboration of Gilbert and Sullivan was ‘Thespis’, produced in December 1871. Gilbert’s plot involved a group of actors taking over from Greek Gods to run the lives of humans on Earth. It was not very successful, and only ran for 64 performances before being withdrawn. Sullivan later destroyed the score but re-used some songs for use in other operas.
So what has all this to do with the Grand Duke? Well, for his final work with Sullivan, Gilbert reverted to a very similar idea that he used in “Thespis”. In “The Grand Duke” a troupe of actors take over the running of the Duchy of Pfennig Halbpfennig, and decide upon the dress of the ancient Greeks for their new courtly costume. Sadly, the fate of this opera was also mirrored by the fact that it too was soon withdrawn after only lasting for 123 performances. However, on its opening night on March 7th 1896, the audience was very enthusiastic. This was only to be expected, as every Gilbert and Sullivan first night was eagerly anticipated, and a warm generous reception was guaranteed. The critics were not so kind however and this has never become a G&S standard. So it is with this production, I have chosen what I consider to be the most faithful blend to the concept of the original plot and trimmed some superfluous lines and songs. Similarly I have reinstated some of some of Gilbert’s cut songs which I think worked well but reduced the length of some of the numbers that I felt slowed down the plot for audiences. I hope you enjoy the opportunity to get to know another lively G& S operetta, which we believe should justify itself as being regularly included in the repertoire of companies who put on the works of Gilbert and Sullivan.