D'Oyly Carte in the 20th Century

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D'Oyly Carte In the 20th Century

1900 to 1950

During the revival of Patience at the Savoy, in the years 1900 - 1901, three important deaths occurred: that of Sir Arthur Sullivan, Queen Victoria and Richard D'Oyly Carte. After Richard's death his wife took over running the Savoy Theatre and subsequently sold it to William Greet. Their was a revival of Iolanthe and the Company introduced several new Operas including The Emerald Isle, Merrie England and The Princess of Kensington. The latter was by Basil Hood and Edward German.

In 1903 the Company went on tour for for three years - this included a seven month visit to South Africa.

The next Savoy season was from December 1906 to August 1907 and four brand new productions were given (Yeomen, Gondoliers, Patience and Iolanthe), under the direction of W.S. Gilbert and J.M. Gordon, the D'Oyly Carte producer who stayed with the company until 1930. Another season followed in 1908-1909.

After these two seasons the Company continued to tour the British provinces, with Henry Lytton playing the comic roles. Lytton had joined the company in 1884 at the age of 17. In 1887 he understudied George Grossmith in Ruddigore. He went on play many Gilbert and Sullivan roles - 30 altogether.

Henry Lytton

Henry Lytton

Henry was knighted in 1932. His last performance was as Jack Point, in Dublin, on June 30th, 1934. He died on August 15th, 1936.

Helen D'Oyly Carte died in 1913 and the Company went into decline. Rupert D'Oyly Carte stepped in with a keen business sense and revitalized the company. He did this in grand style with a re-dressing of Iolanthe, Gondoliers and Patience. He needed a larger theatre than the savoy and soon the Princess became the Company's new home.

The 1919-20 Princess Theatre season was a great success with the Operas given a new look with fresh scenery and costumes. New principals were engaged including Derek Oldham, Elsie Griffin and Darrell Fancourt. Geoffrey Toye was the musical director.

Ruddigore was added to the repertoire in 1920 with a new Overture written by Jeffrey Toye. Cox and Box was revived in 1921.

A second company was formed to tour the provinces. This company existed from 1919 to 1927 and included such names as Martyn Green, Leslie Rands and Marjorie Eyre.

From 1918 to 1925 ten of the Operas were recorded and issued on 78 r.p.m. discs. These were acoustic recordings. A series of Electric recordings were made from 1927 onwards.

The 1926 London season opened with a new production of The Mikado with scenery and costumes designed by Charles Ricketts, one of the foremost artists of the day. The conductor was Dr Malcolm Sargent. This began his long career with the Company.

Mikado Costume

Rickett's Mikado costume

In 1929 the Savoy Theatre was gutted and largely rebuilt. The Company returned to their old home with a new production of The Gondoliers with new sets and costumes by Charles Ricketts.

H.M.S. Pinafore, The Pirates of Penzance and Patience also saw new costume designs by George Sheringham.

Martyn Green succeeded Henry Lytton in 1934. He had been a member of the Company since 1922, touring the provinces singing in the chorus and taking some minor principal roles. In 1926 he was transfered to the main Company understudying Henry Lytton.

In September 1934 the Company sailed to North America for a 15 week season at the martin Beck Theatre in New York. The season was so successful that return visits were made in 1936 and 1939.

In 1938 a colour film version of The Mikado was made at Pinewood Studios. The cast included Martyn Green and Sydney Granville.

During the Second World War the Company introduced a new production of The Yeomen of the Guard with a controversial set by Peter Goffin. It was so designed to focus attention on the Opera and not detract from it. Goffin's designs were eventually accepted and thus became a long association between him and the Company.

Yeomen Set 1940

Yeomen Set 1940

In 1948 a new production of Ruddigore was presented in Newcastle with a new Act 2 set and new costumes by Peter Goffin. In the midst of the preparations for this production Rupert D'Oyly Carte died. He was succeeded by his daughter Bridget who continued to run the Company for the next 33 years.

Continue on to the 1950s