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Chairman's Message


The Gondoliers

G&S, D'Oyly Carte and Us!


Gondoliers Cast




Chairman's Message

Hello and welcome to what can only be described as the make or break season in the history of our society.

The Gondoliers, by coincidence, happens to be the first show ever performed by the society some 62 years ago, and all involved in this show are determined that it will not be the last!! Is history against us? Maybe Venice can give us a few pointers.

Several hundred years ago King Gianfranco the XXVI sat on the Venetian throne (head of the all-powerful Zola family) sipping Grappa, when suddenly his Lord Chamberlain burst in.
“Sire, Venice is flooding.”
“Raise taxes and give me more Grappa” was the Kings’ unpopular answer.
Months later a similar situation occurred.
“Sire, Venice is still flooding, the roads are now completely impassable”
“Let them use Gondoliers! Oh, and make them unpleasantly expensive to foreign tourists”, said the King, still blinkered by the effects of alcohol.

To the present day! Venice is still sinking and so is the Leicester Gilbert & Sullivan Musical Society. So do we put up prices to Members, Patrons and Audience alike? No! We keep prices the same, cut costs wherever we can without affecting quality, move our base to The University of Leicester and introduce some youth to the Society, and G&S. We are doing everything we possibly can to keep this society going. Next year our show will be Oklahoma and we will then alternate between our norm and the more populist shows, if all goes well. We hope to keep G&S alive and stem that sinking feeling.

Back to youth. I have great pleasure in introducing our Director Mrs Hannah Torrance and our M.D. Harriet Veale. We are delighted to have them and give them the opportunity to work with professionals!?! Their cumulative age, by the way, is still less than mine and I’m still only 39!!

The rest, as they say is down to you, We hope you enjoy our show but more importantly, come again and bring more friends!!

Just for the record, I’m more a Lemoncello man!


Gondoliers 1
Photo: Chris Roe

Gondoliers 2
Photo: Chris Roe

The Gondoliers - The Story

The first act opens on the Piazzetta in Venice. A group of girls declare their love for a pair of gondoliers Marco and Giuseppe Palmieri, who will soon be arriving to choose their brides. When they do arrive they are overwhelmed with the bouquets pressed upon them by their would-be brides. Marco and Giuseppe are blindfolded and say they will marry the two girls they catch. In spite of attempts to prevent cheating they somehow manage to catch Gianetta and Tessa – their personal choices. All leave to go to church for a double wedding.

His Grace the Duke of Plaza Toro, Her Grace the Duchess, their beautiful daughter Casilda, and their solitary attendant (the family have fallen on hard times) the drummer, Luiz, now arrive in Venice from Spain. They have come to meet Don Alhambra del Bolero, the Grand Inquisitor of Spain. The Duke reveals to his daughter that when she was a baby she was married by proxy to the infant son of the wealthy King of Barataria. The infant prince was taken from his home by the Grand Inquisitor, after the king of Barataria became a Wesleyan Methodist “of the most bigoted and persecuting type”, and taken to Venice. The King of Barataria was recently killed in an insurrection, and the hidden prince is now king. As the wife of the new king, Casilda is now the reigning queen of Barataria, and her parents have brought her to meet with the Grand Inquisitor to be introduced to her husband. We soon discover, however that Casilda is secretly in love with Luiz. Left alone together, she breaks this news to him.

The Duke and Duchess return with the Grand Inquisitor, Don Alhambra, who tells them that the King is in Venice working incognito as a gondolier with his brother. Fortunately, the nurse who took care of the infant prince (and who happens to be Luiz’s mother), is now living in the mountains, married to “a highly respectable brigand”. Don Alhambra says that he has located her and that she will be able to reveal which of the two gondoliers is the lost prince.

The gondolier brothers and their new brides now enter and Don Alhambra revels that one of the gondoliers is King of Barataria. Marco and Giuseppe are staunch republicans but agree to act as joint monarchs until the true king is identified. All the men then set sail for Barataria, leaving their wives behind in Venice.

At the beginning of act two we find Marco and Giuseppe ruling their kingdom by true republican principles. They are missing their wives but the unexpected arrival of Gianetta and Tessa cheer them up and a great celebration is held.

The Grand Inquisitor arrives at the ball. He breaks the news that one of the gondoliers had married Casilda when a baby and therefore is an unintentional bigamist. The gondoliers attempt to console their wives, who are distraught to discover that neither one will be queen, and that one is married to someone who was already married.

The Duke and Duchess of Plaza Toro arrive. Things are looking up for them. The Duke explains how he was applied for by the public under the Limited Liability Company Act, and how they now earn a very good living.

Don Alhambra brings in the nurse who had tended the infant prince of Barataria twenty years ago. Revelation comes upon revelation and all is resolved to everybody’s satisfaction.

The Gondoliers

The Gondoliers opened 7th December 1889 and the first performance was conducted by Sir Arthur Sullivan Hugh Grant played in The Nottingham Playhouse production ‘The Gondoliers’ and chose for his appearance on Desert Island Discs (April 1997) “We Are Called Gondolieri” as one of his eight records. Terry Wogan also chose an item from The Gondoliers - “For The Merriest Fellows” - as one of his Desert Island Discs in 1988. At the age of two. Gilbert’s parent were holidaying in Naples when he was kidnapped and only released after a ransom of £25 was paid and he used this experience fifty years later when plotting The Gondoliers. The Gondoliers was subject of a Royal Command performance at Windsor Castle, March 1891 in the presence of Queen Victoria and her family. Arthur Sullivan was knighted, 1883 and W. S. Gilbert, 1907.

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G&S, D'Oyly Carte and Us

During 1946 Blaby and District Choral and Operatic Society decided to produce shows to raise money for a Social Centre to be built on land donated by Miss Alice Walker. The group decided to disband after having achieved their objective performing five Gilbert and Sullivan Operas to 1949, however, a number of the company, led by Doris How (the producer of the last two productions), thought, in one form or other, that they should carry on performing. Within a few weeks a new company was formed and rehearsals for ‘The Gondoliers’ began. The production opened 29th March, 1950 at The Great Hall, Wyggestion Boy’s School, now the Queen Elizabeth College. In ‘The Gondoliers’ were Gertrude Millington and Joan Powers who played principal roles in Blaby’s 1949 ‘Iolanthe’ and joined the new company. As they both lived in Hinckley, it became the start of performers from that area being members of the society and there is still a connection with this season's production of ‘The Gondoliers’. The Gondoliers was performed under the name of the Doris How Company and changed a year later to The Leicester Gilbert and Sullivan Operatic Society.

Richard D’Oyly Carte, who was responsible for bringing together Gilbert and Sullivan, formed a company, The D’Oyly Carte Company, August 1879, to perform their operas and those of other composers of the day.

The last two productions of ‘The Gondoliers’ the society performed were fortunate to have producers who had performed professionally with The D’Oyly Carte Company, mainly Geoffrey Shovelton, 1998, and Peter Robinson, 2007. The first occasion the society had an ex D’Oyly Carte performer involved was Billy Morgan who advised on staging and produced principles during the mid fifties. He was followed by John Broad who produced the 1982 ‘Iolanthe’. Donald Adams preceded our President and he was one of The D’Oyly Carte’s finest performers of his generation. These operas have brought prosperity to Gilbert, Sullivan and D’Oyly Carte. Richard D’Oyly Carte built The Savoy Theatre in 1881 and The Savoy Hotel in 1889. He was also responsible for building what is known as The Palace Theatre. He acquired Claridges and Simpsons in the Strand as well as other hotels towards the end of the twentieth century. In The Savoy Hotel there were six rooms named after Gilbert and Sullivan Operas - Pinafore, Patience, Iolanthe, Princess Ida, Mikado and Gondoliers - these rooms still retain their names today.

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