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The Savoy Operas

The popularity of the Savoy Operas of Gilbert and Sullivan should not be overlooked. The D'Oyly Carte Opera Company played to enthusiastic audiences at the Grand Theatre from the 1880's until the company's demise in 1982.

All of the Gilbert and Sullivan operettas (except 'Utopia Ltd' and 'The Grand Duke') were toured, although Leeds did not usually see 'Princess Ida', whereas Manchester invariably did! The company's traditional production style, rooted in W.S. Gilbert's original stage directions, was not without its detractors and the touring orchestra with less than 20 players was much smaller than for D'Oyly Carte's London season. Yorkshire Post critic Ernest Bradbury remarked: 'This tiny touring orchestra just will not do'.

Fresh modern productions
The D'Oyly Carte Company ceased to hold the monopoly on professional productions when the copyright expired in 1960. This opened the door to fresh, modern productions by enabling the Savoy operas to enter the repertory of Sadlers Wells (later English National Opera), the Scottish Opera and Welsh companies. ENO's 1969 production of Patience, Gilbert's brilliant parody of the 19th century 'aesthetic movement', successfully toured to Leeds Grand Theatre.

D'Oyly Carte is reborn
The company was resurrected in the 1990s as the New D'Oyly Carte Opera Company. This in turn has been replaced by a new touring operetta company, which has adopted the name of Britain's oldest opera company, Carl Rosa. Both incarnations have performed at the Grand Theatre. Carl Rosa Repertoire had included, 'Yeomen of the Guard', 'Mikado' and 'Die Fledermaus'.

The Mikado rocks
A rock version of Mikado, the Black Mikado, erupted on the stage at the Grand in the 1970's and in 1987 the Leeds Amateur Operatic Society staged the Broadway version of Pirates of Penzance. Opera North have staged lively new productions of the Gondoliers (1984) and the Mikado (1986). The gentlemen of Japan in the Mikado were city gents with brief cases and bowler hats. The Leeds Gilbert & Sullivan Society's traditional period productions of the Savoy Operas attracted enthusiastic audiences to the Civic Theatre for nearly 50 years. The society's productions will be staged at the Carriageworks from Spring 2006.

Click images to enlarge
Programme from 1969
Programme from 1969
Black Mikado programme, 1975
Black Mikado programme, 1975
Pirates of Penzance, 1987
Pirates of Penzance, 1987
D'Oyly Carte at the Grand
D'Oyly Carte at the Grand




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© 2003 Leeds City Council | Site created by: LCC electronic information team | 25 March 2003