Links to the different times
we have performed this show:
The Gondoliers, or, The King of Barataria, was the twelfth opera written together by Gilbert and Sullivan. Opening on December 7, 1889 at the Savoy Theatre, The Gondoliers ran for 554 performances, and was the last of the G&S operas that would achieve wide popularity. Its lilting score has, perhaps, the most sparkling and tuneful music of them all and calls, perhaps, for the most dancing.
Gilbert returns, in this opera, to satire of snobbery regarding class distinctions and begins his fascination, which will play an even larger part in the next opera, Utopia Limited, with the "stock company act" using the absurd convergence of natural persons and legal entities. Again setting his work comfortably far away from mother England, Gilbert is emboldened to level somewhat harsh criticism on the noble class, and the institution of the monarchy itself.
The story of the two Gondoliers and their lost infant heir to the throne of Barataria forms the theme of this most light-hearted of the famous
Gilbert and Sullivan operas.
Left in Venice with a Gondolier for safety after a revolution in Barataria, the babe gets inextricably mixed with Marco and Giuseppe, the Gondolier's
two sons, after a "taste for drink had doubled him up for ever".
The Duke of Plaza-Toro, whose daughter Casilda had been married to the infant prince while still in her cradle, arrives with the Duchess,
Casilda, and his "suite", Luiz, to claim his daughter's husband. In the meantime the two Gondoliers have married the attractive
Contadine, Gianetta and Tessa.
Don Alhambra, the Grand Inquisitor of Spain, arrives and persuades the Gondoliers to sail to Barataria, where they try to reign "as
one individual" on republican principles of equality with their former friends the Gondoliers, now appointed to all the high offices
The Contadine, feeling lonely, come to Barataria with the brides of the Gondoliers and are followed by the
Duke, Duchess and Casilda.
The Duke endeavors to teach the Gondolier who may (or perhaps may not) be the prince ("the other gentleman may allow his attention to wander")
proper court behavior, but complications arise when it is explained that the two Gondoliers are now married to Gianetta and Tessa.
At this point, when all is in chaos, Don Alhambra intervenes to say he has discovered the old nurse to the prince, who discloses that instead of leaving
him with the Gondolier, she had taken and secreted him in Spain, and it is, after all, Luiz, already in love with Casilda, who is the real King of
Barataria. The lovers are happily reunited. Marco, Giuseppe and their brides, together with their friends, return to Venice, "On some points rather sore
but on the whole delighted".