Cast

I have gone into more detail with this show as nobody will know it. There are several characters that do not appear until Act 2, although the same could be said about the Mikado, the Police Sergeant, and Sir Roderick.

Julia Jellicoe, as an English comedienne, traditionally speaks with a central European accent - a bit like Gerda Redlich, the director of Pirates 1988 had - as the rest of the cast are Ruritanian and so speak with an English accent, if you see what I mean. Typically Gilbert. The prince and princess of Monte Carlo do not appear until Act two. We could do this show, and possibly get the audience in on its rarity value by itself. The plot is non too special, but has some delightful music. As far as I am aware it has not been played in Manchester for years.

Notes

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Speisesaal is in the Duchy of Pfennig-Halbpfennig, a sort of Ruritania, Prisoner of Zenda type of place. Present are the members of a travelling theatrical company, of which Ernest Dummkopf is the manager. They are celebrating the fact that Lisa, one of their soubrettes is getting married to Ludwig, the principal comedian. They are in love and it is sure to be a pretty wedding. There is one problem: No parson is available, because they have all been summoned to the Grand Ducal palace to settle the details of the Grand Duke's own forthcoming marriage to the wealthy Baroness von Krakenfeldt. So no one will be available until 6pm to perform the ceremony, and this will be almost too late to allow them to get ready for their evening performance of 'Troilus & Cressida'. For many weeks now, a group of conspirators have been planning a coup that will depose Grand Duke Rudolph and replace him with Ernest Dummkopf. As a theatrical manager, used to running a theatrical company, a small state like Pfennig-Halbpfennig should present no problems at all. Not only that, but all the members of the company will be given official positions, and Julia Jellicoe (who is after all the leading lady) will become Grand Duchess. So far, so good. However, Ludwig arrives in a state of agitation and reveals that he has inadvertently given away the plot to the Grand Duke's detective, mistaking him for a fellow conspirator. The notary has an idea: If the GD can be convinced that the conspiracy has been quelled by his loyal subjects - ie the Thespians - then he will not suspect them of continuing the plot to overthrow him. There is an old law involving a procedure called 'a statutory duel' whereby to avoid bloodshed, the drawing of cards decides the issue, the loser being officially dead, and the winner taking over all his assets & liabilities. As this law is due to expire the following day, the loser can become officially alive again. Ludwig and Ernest 'fight' and Ludwig wins. Enter the target of all these machinations, the Grand Duke himself: he is a puny little man, weighed down under a mountain of medals and decorations. He is not grand at all, in fact he wears old and patched clothes. Economy is the watchword. His forthcoming wedding has been arranged in such a way that the citizens of the Duchy will have to create their own demonstrations of festivity at their own expense - this 'keeps the taxes down'. He is betrothed to the Baroness von Krakenfeldt, and she is as tight as he is, whilst enjoying a considerable income. Proceedings come to a shuddering halt when the Baroness announces - in public - that she cannot marry the Duke until he resolves the problem of his betrothal in infancy to the Princess of Monte Carlo. This does not bother the GD as the contract is null and void when she becomes of age tomorrow, and all he needs to do is schedule the wedding for a later hour. Why does the Duke prefer a baroness to a princess ? The baroness is rich, whilst the Princess comes from a poor family. The Duke prefers the Baroness to the princess because she is rich, and her money would come in useful to him. Ludwig comes along to tell the GD of the plot, but as the GD is in a state of distress, has another idea. Why not have another 'statutory duel' and cheat, and arrange that Rudolph be killed, and Ludwig take his place ? Consequently, it would be Ludwig to be deposed, and as the law becomes void the following day, Rudolph can come to life again. In the presence of the whole company they stage a noisy quarrel, Ludwig draws the ace and so Rudolph is 'killed' and Ludwig hailed as the new GD. The GD goes on his way, legally as dead as a doornail, helped by the derision of his subjects. As a result of this, Lisa (only a soubrette, remember) cannot possibly wed Ludwig, and the honour goes to Julia Jellicoe. End of Act one.

Act two opens on the following morning (can use the same set), all the cast are dressed for Troilus and Cressida, and greeting the newlywed Julia and Ludwig. In comes the Baroness von Krakenfeldt, and she is told by Ludwig, that far from letting the law lapse, has revived it for another 100 years. The Baroness than informs him that as he has assumed all the GD's responsibilities, he must marry her, and to hell with Julia, or words to that effect. Things are no brighter for Ernest, who, coming forward to claim Julia, is informed that he must remain 'dead' for another 100 years.

As if that wasn't enough, in come the Prince and Princess of Monte Carlo, and far from being poor, the prince has invented a game called Roulette, and has made a lot of money from it. As his daughter is still under 21 (but only just) he has come to claim the GD. In the middle of this the notary makes an appearance, and tells them that the ace is a low card and not a high card, and so none of this should have happened. There is a general pairing off and the show ends in the usual way.

I have gone into more detail with this show as nobody will know it. There are several characters that do not appear until Act 2, although the same could be said about the Mikado, Sir Roderick and the Police Sergeant. Julia Jellicoe, as an English comedienne, traditionally speaks with a central european accent - as the rest of the cast are Ruritanian and so speak with an English accent.

The prince and princess of Monte Carlo do not appear until Act two

We could do this show, and possibly get the audience in on its rarity value by itself, let alone on the back of Pirates and Ruddigore. As far as I am aware it has not been played in Manchester for years.

Vocal scores are still available, although not as a set from Central Library. If we do it, the band parts have to come from D'Oyly Carte and be sure to ask for the 'three lost songs'.

The Grand Duke was the last opera that Gilbert wrote with Sullivan. The original run was of 123 performances opening on 7th March 1896. They had got over what came to be called 'the carpet quarrel': Richard D'Oyly Carte was owner of the Savoy theatre and he, together with Gilbert and Sullivan had agreed to split the profits from the Savoy operas three ways. In 1891 D'Oyly Carte had a new expensive carpet put in the front of house at the Savoy and taken a proportion of its cost from Gilbert's and Sullivan's profits. Gilbert objected to this in no uncertain manner, along the lines that the carpet was not a repair, and the partners were not responsible for 'wear and tear'. Gilbert even took Carte to court and their audiences were amazed to read of this in the daily papers, since the amount of Gilbert's share was some #140, which was nothing compared to the #90.000 they had each made during the previous eleven years of their partnership. It was only the tact and perseverance of Helen D'Oyly Carte that finally resolved the case and brought them together again for what were to be their final two operas. Utopia Ltd in 1893 and The Grand Duke in 1896.

In the meantime they had gone their separate ways - Sullivan to compose 'Ivanhoe' a grand opera for which Carte built a theatre specially. It proved to be a white elephant for Carte and nearly bankrupted him. He was forced to sell it off at a loss. Sullivan also composed Haddon Hall, an opera with Sidney Grundy as the librettist, and incidental music to 'The Foresters' by Tennyson. After 'Utopia Ltd' he went on to 'The Chieftain', a reworked and expanded version of his earlier 'Contrabandista' of 1867, and incidental music for 'King Arthur'. Gilbert was possibly more productive still, writing 'Rosencrantz & Guildenstern' a play, 'Haste to the Wedding', 'The Mountebanks' and 'His Excellency', three operettas, as well as 'Utopia Ltd', before they came together to do 'The Grand Duke. Sullivan's kidney complaint was also taking its toll, as he had had this for a number of years and it must have worn him down., His method of composing was also not good for him, as he would start in the evening and go on until 4 or 5 o'clock in the morning, quite often on the night of a performance. He would also leave some composing until the last minute, with some first nights having the ink barely dry on the page. Between 'Utopia Ltd' and 'The Grand Duke', D'Oyly Carte was forced to put on a revival of 'The Mikado' which was (and is) one of their most popular operas, as he had nothing ready from them.

In August 1895 Gilbert read his plot to Sullivan who replied "I have studied the plot very carefully and like it even more than I did when I heard it first on Thursday. It comes out as clear and bright as possible". As well as Sullivan suffering with his health, Gilbert had recurring attacks of gout. At one point he had to be carried to the stage. He was a awkward person to work with at the best of times and this must have made it all but impossible. George Grossmith, the principal comedian, left the company, and as Gilbert had written the part of the Grand Duke Rudolf especially for him, the part was rewritten to a minor role. One of the principal sopranos, Jessie Bond, left to get married - not a good enough reason according to Gilbert. He even wrote his anger into the libretto by having Julia Jellicoe break off her engagement to Ernest. Gilbert had taken under his wing a young american girl, one Nancy McIntosh - this would appear to be with the approval of his wife (?) - and he had forced Carte into using her in Utopia and tried again to get her into the Grand Duke. She could sing, but not act (I could think of a few professionals like that!) and so was not allowed in the new opera. Gilbert looked around and discovered one Ilka von Palmay singing at Drury Lane. Strange that previously she had had an injunction served on her by D'Oyly Carte when the Royal Court theatre in Berlin wanted her to play the part of Nanki-Poo in 'Der Mikado'.So Gilbert found her and created the part of Julia Jellicoe for her - a part not originally in his first idea for the plot. This late introduction added little to the confused story line. Another point about this part is that Julia Jellicoe is English and he got a German actress to play her with a german accent, contrasting with the English cast playing germans with an English accent. Ilka von Palmay must have done well enough as she stayed with the company to go on to play Elsie Maynard in Yeomen of the Guard after the Grand Duke had closed.

Rudolf started out as Wilhelm, and his Grand Duchy was Hesse-Halbpfennig. Now in reality there was a William, grandson of George III, who became Grand Duke of Hesse-Cassel. He was nicknamed 'halbpfennig' because of his greedy financial practices. This was a bit close to lese-majeste, hence the change to Rudolf and Pfennig-halbpfennig. With all those rewrites, the eventual production was quite different to the original plot, and probably not as coherent as first intended.

The D'Oyly Carte orchestral parts that we are using appear to be copies (and not very good ones at that) of somebody's original 1896 writing - you know how it is that all handwriting tended to look the same in those days, as everybody was forced to practise copperplate. There are some three numbers cut from them: No 21 'Come bumpers, aye, ever so many' for the Baroness, No 27 The Roulette song for the Prince of Monte Carlo, and No 28a 'You're a pretty kind of fellow' for the Grand Duke. However they have not been lost forever as they do appear in the current vocal score, which, although a reprint is not a new edition. You can tell since the lines of music are printed smaller than in some of the more popular operas. If you have a score of Ruddigore with the now reinstated original finale to Act two you will see the difference in styles of printing. These three numbers are available from D'Oyly Carte but have to be asked for separately and are on separate sheets of paper, which are getting somewhat worn. They are also only scored for single brass, single flute and bassoon so we have added the second parts, as I'm sure Sullivan would have done originally.

After the Grand Duke they never worked together again: Sullivan went on to write a ballet score for 'Victoria & Merrie England' and three more operas - 'The Beauty Stone' for Pinero & Comyns-Carr, and 'The Rose of Persia' and 'The Emerald Isle' both with Basil Hood. He did not live to complete 'The Emerald Isle' before his death in 1901, and this was finished by Edward German. Gilbert on the other hand lived until 1911, and wrote several plays - 'The Fortune Hunter', 'The Fairy's dilemma' (imagine a play with that title today) and 'The Hooligan'. He also collaborated with Edward German in 1909, long after Sullivan's death, by writing the opera 'The Fallen Fairies'. In some ways, Edward German's music is very similar to that of Sullivan.

After all, it was 'The Mikado', 'The Pirates of Penzance', 'Patience' and 'Yeomen of the Guard' that paid the bills; 'The Grand Duke' had nothing to contribute. It is nice to see a performance of this rarely done show, and we have several members of the audience who I'm sure have only come out of curiosity.

On the last night of their centenary season, the D'Oyly Carte gave a concert performance of the Grand Duke with Richard Baker as the narrator. Although excerpts from it had been performed at previous 'last nights' this was the first time that the company had presented the opera since its original run in 1896. They actually issued recordings of this and the other rarity 'Utopia Ltd.', although there are other recordings available, and after this week we will have one of 'The Grand Duke.

Alternative notes

:

The Grand Duke was the last opera that Gilbert wrote with Sullivan. They had got over what eventually came to be called 'the carpet quarrel' but it must have left its mark. Helen D'Oyly Carte, with much tact and persuasion brought them together again for what were to be their final two operas. Utopia Ltd in 1893 and The Grand Duke in 1896. After 'The Gondoliers' they had gone their separate ways - Sullivan to compose 'Ivanhoe', Haddon Hall, and incidental music to 'The Foresters' by Tennyson. After 'Utopia Ltd' he went on to 'The Chieftain', a reworked and expanded version of his earlier 'Contrabandista' of 1867, and incidental music for 'King Arthur'. Gilbert was possibly more productive still, writing 'Rosencrantz & Guildenstern' a play, 'Haste to the Wedding', 'The Mountebanks' and 'His Excellency', three operettas, as well as 'Utopia Ltd', before they came together to do 'The Grand Duke.

Neither of them was a well man: Sullivan's kidney complaint was taking its toll; he had had this for a number of years and the constant pain must have worn him down, although he did compose some of his best music at this time: His method of composing was not good for him, as he would leave the music until as late as possible and then compose all through the night, with some first nights having the ink barely dry on the page. As well as Sullivan suffering with his health, Gilbert had recurring attacks of gout, and at one point he had to be carried to the stage. He was a awkward person to work with at the best of times and this must have made him all but impossible.

In August 1895 Gilbert read his plot to Sullivan who replied "I have studied the plot very carefully and like it even more than I did when I heard it first on Thursday. It comes out as clear and bright as possible". This however was the first draft. Several things happened to change it before it ever saw the stage:

Rudolf started out as Wilhelm, and his Grand Duchy was Hesse-Halbpfennig. Now in reality there was a William, grandson of George III, who became Grand Duke of Hesse-Cassel. He was nicknamed 'halbpfennig' because of his greedy financial practices. This was a bit close to lÖse-majestÑ, hence the change to Rudolf and Pfennig-halbpfennig. George Grossmith, the principal comedian, left the company, and as Gilbert had written the part of the Grand Duke Rudolf especially for him, the part was rewritten to a minor role. One of the principal sopranos, Jessie Bond, left to get married - not a good enough reason according to Gilbert. He even wrote his anger into the libretto by having Julia Jellicoe break off her engagement to Ernest. Gilbert had taken under his wing a young american girl, one Nancy McIntosh, and he had forced Carte into using her in Utopia and tried again to get her into the Grand Duke. She could sing, but not act (I could think of a few professionals like that!) and so was not allowed in the new opera. Awkward as ever, Gilbert looked around and discovered one Ilka von Palmay singing at Drury Lane (strange that previously she had had an injunction served on her by D'Oyly Carte when the Royal Court theatre in Berlin wanted her to play the part of Nanki-Poo in 'Der Mikado'). He created the part of Julia Jellicoe for her - a part not originally in the first draft. This late introduction added little to the confused story line. Another point about this part is that Julia Jellicoe is English and he got a German actress to play her with a german accent, contrasting with the English cast playing germans with an english accent. Typically Gilbert. So with all those rewrites, the eventual production was quite different to the original plot, and probably not as coherent as first intended.

After the Grand Duke they never worked together again: Sullivan went on to write a several more operettas: 'Victoria & Merrie England', 'The Beauty Stone','The Rose of Persia' and 'The Emerald Isle', although Edward German finished the last one as Sullivan did not live to complete it before his death in 1901. Richard D'Oyly Carte followed him some four months later. Gilbert on the other hand lived until 1911, still writing: 'The Fortune Hunter', 'The Fairy's dilemma' (imagine a play with that title today) and 'The Hooligan', and also collaborated with Edward German in 1909, long after Sullivan's death, by writing the opera 'The Fallen Fairies'.