Gilbert & Sullivan

Past display archive
8 March - 4 December 2011

Room 28


Sibyl Grey, Leonora Braham, and Jessie Bond in The Mikado

Sibyl Grey, Leonora Braham, and Jessie Bond in The Mikado
by Herbert Rose Barraud, published by Carson & Comerford
woodburytype, published 1 July 1885
NPG x9389

The librettist William Schwenck Gilbert and composer Arthur Sullivan are among the most celebrated names of the Victorian stage. Their collaboration lasted from 1871 to 1896 and produced the masterpieces of comic opera, HMS Pinafore (1878), The Pirates of Penzance (1880), The Mikado (1885) and The Gondoliers (1890). The works are collectively known as the Savoy Operas after the theatre that was built for their performances by the impresario Richard D’Oyly Carte in 1881.

Their success was due to the deft marriage of Sullivan’s virtuoso scores with Gilbert’s absurd plots and witty word play. London had never seen musical comedy performances of such range and quality. In Gilbert’s words, they dealt with ‘thoroughly farcical subject[s] in a thoroughly serious manner’. Their ‘topsy-turvy’ plots, which inverted all norms and conventions, held up a satirical mirror to Victorian society.

This display marks their achievements on the centenary of W.S. Gilbert’s death. It includes photographs of the pair alongside cast members of original productions.

© National Portrait Gallery, London