Wichita Grand Opera
Century II Concert Hall
225 W. Douglas Ave.
Wichita , Kansas 67202
316.683.3444 Admin Office
316.262.8054 Box Office
Gilbert & Sullivan's
The Scene: The Town of Titipu, Japan in the 12th Century
Chorus of School Girls, Nobles, Guards and Coolies
(Production and Artists subject to Change)
Set against the backdrop of Japan, the Mikado’s son, Nanki-Poo, anxious to escape an arranged marriage flees and disguises himself as a traveling minstrel. In his travels, he falls in love with Yum-Yum, but she is already betrothed to Ko-Ko, newly appointed Lord High Executioner for the town of Titipu. Hilarity and romance ensues as Ko-Ko is soon ordered to hold an execution by the end of the month, except his neck is the next on the chopping block. Learning of Nanki-Poo’s love for Yum-Yum, Ko-Ko strikes an agreement with him to allow him to marry Yum-Yum for one month and then at the end of the month, Nanki-Poo volunteers to be executed. Will Nanki-Poo die once he has the hand of the woman he loves? Or will his father stop it somehow?
Often referred to by their initials, G&S, William Schwenck Gilbert and Arthur Seymour Sullivan have left an indelible mark on the world of theater. This remarkable pairing created some of the greatest hits in operetta that are still regularly performed around the world; The Mikado, H.M.S. Pinafore, and The Pirates of Penzance, to name a few.
Sir William Schwenck Gilbert was born on November 18, 1836 in London, England to a retired naval surgeon and his wife. He went spent much of his youth touring Europe with his family, returning to London in 1849. William began his education at the Great Ealing School and went on to King's College. He entered into the legal profession although he had little success there. He did gain a thorough understanding of legal quirks that he later used in his biting satire.
William eventually left his legal career to pursue writing. In 1869, his first piece for the Gallery of Illustration was produced and met with some success. He wrote a total of six musical plays for the Gallery. Gilbert was also gaining some practical experience in stage direction. He started to direct his own plays that opened doors to him creatively. His first contact with Sullivan came as a collaborative Christmas play, Thespis, in 1871. That same year was a tremendous success for Gilbert; seven of his plays had their premieres, and he was writing constantly in many different genres including farces, fairy comedies, novel adaptations, etc. Eventually, Gilbert and Sullivan were drawn together again by the influential impresario, Richard D'Oyly Carte. D'Oyly Carte suggested Gilbert take his libretto for Trial by Jury to Arthur Sullivan. It was an immediate hit.
Sir Arthur Seymour Sullivan was born on May 13, 1842, also in London, to the royal bandmaster and his wife. By the age of 8, Arthur could play most of the instruments in the band. After he finished his studies at a private school, Arthur received an appointment at the Chapel Royal. He then received the Mendelssohn scholarship and attended the Royal Academy of Music until 1858. Arthur left England to study at the Leipzig conservatory. Leipzig had a profound impact on the young composer. When he returned to England in 1862, he composed an orchestral suite to William Shakespeare's The Tempest. After that premiere, Arthur found himself being hailed as the new hope of serious English music.
In 1866, the premiere of Arthur's Symphony in E flat was a tremendous success. The next several years produced orchestral overtures, concertos, oratorios and several Christian hymns, including Onward, Christian Soldiers. He also held several positions in London including organist, conductor and the principal of the National Training School. In 1867, Arthur composed a one-act musical Cox and Box and a full-length musical work, The Contrabandista.
In 1871, Sullivan was introduced to Gilbert through singer Fred Clay. Thespis was the outcome of that initial meeting, but it wasn't until 1875 and the meeting with D'Oyly Carte that launched this successful pairing. Trial by Jury was an immediate success and led to further collaborations as well as the formation of the D'Oyly Carte comic opera company in 1876. In 1877, the G&S team created The Sorcerer, followed by H.M.S. Pinafore (1878), the latter running for almost two years to full houses. In 1879, a copyright dispute brought G&S to America along with their Pinafore and Pirates of Penzance, which were huge hits in New York.
In 1884, a most famous feud took place; Sullivan refused to write anything more for D'Oyly Carte's Savoy Theater. He left for a five-week tour of Europe; upon his return, both D'Oyly Carte and Gilbert tried to persuade him to continue his collaborations. Gilbert, initially insisting on a plot with a magic pill, finally came up with plot when a Japanese sword hanging on the wall of his study crashed to the floor, catching his attention. He came up with the plot that would become The Mikado and Sullivan agreed to compose the music.
After The Gondoliers, Gilbert and Sullivan had another parting of the ways over some of the expenses the Savoy Theater was incurring. D'Oyly Carte purchased an extremely expensive carpet for the theater; Gilbert felt it was an unnecessary extravagance. Gilbert and D'Oyly Carte had words and ultimately Sullivan ended up siding with D'Oyly Carte. After this split, both Gilbert and Sullivan explored other areas but neither was as successful individually as they had been togeher. They twice attempted reuniting and collaborating, but both experiments failed to capture the audience that previous G&S works had. Sullivan went on to write an opera, Ivanhoe, and several operettas. Gilbert completed several plays including The Fortune Hunter (1897) and The Hooligan (1911). Sullivan's health went into decline at the turn of the century, and he became addicted to morphine to relieve his pain. Sir Arthur Sullivan died on November 22, 1900 in London. Neither of his closest friends, Gilbert and D'Oyly Carte, was with him when he died. Gilbert was out of town and read about Sullivan's death in a newspaper, and D'Oyly Carte was in poor health. A few months later, D'Oyly Carte passed away. Gilbert lived until 1911 when a swimming accident took his life.