Potted History

"Take all the remarkable people in history, Rattle them off to a popular tune."


1880 - 1884

1880: The Pirates of Penzance opens in London at the Opéra Comique on April 3rd.

Check out original costumes from this production.

1880: The Sullivan/Gilbert Oratorio The Martyr of Antioch has its first performance at the Leeds Festival on October 15th. The words for this work were selected, by Gilbert, from the poem of the same name by the Rev. H.H. Milman, Dean of St. Pauls.

1881: The Pirates of Penzance opens in Sydney on March 19th, 1881 (read review).

1881: Gilbert and Sullivan's Patience is first performed on April 23rd.

Patience Poster

Check out original costumes from this production.

1881: Patience is transferred to the newly build Savoy Theatre on October 10th. The Savoy is the first Theatre to be lit entirely by electric light.


1881: Patience receives it's first performance down under. It opens at the Theatre Royal, Sydney, on November 26th. (read complete review)

Newspaper Review:
"A great many people anticipated that Gilbert and Sullivan's latest opera, the aesthetic one, "Patience," would not be appreciated here, seeing that, as the aesthetic craze has not reached the colonies, the satire of the work would not be understood; but this idea was completely dispelled by the audience which assembled at the Theatre Royal on Saturday night to witness its first production on the Australian stage; for every point in the "consummately utter" and "intensely precious" dialogue was echoed by a burst of laughter from before the curtain, and the music was so much enjoyed that not only had several numbers to be repeated, but two had to be re-repeated."
Sydney Morning Herald. Nov 28th

1881: Gilbert's fairy comedy Foggerty's Fairy opens on Dec 15th.

For a complete transcript of this play click here

1882: Sullivan's Mother dies, on May 27th, aged 71.

1882: The Vicar of Bray, words by Sydney Grundy (librettist of Haddon Hall), music by Edward Solomon, opens on July 22nd at the Globe Theatre.

1882: Iolanthe opens at the Savoy Theatre on November 25th. It runs for 398 performances.

Check out original costumes from this production.

1883: Sullivan is knighted on May 22nd.

1883: In December, Gilbert moves into his new house at 19 Harrington Gardens.

Historic Note:
The house contained a marble court, twelve bedrooms (counting the servants) and four bathrooms - four bathrooms in a private house were indeed a luxury. Also there was electricity, a telephone and double-glazing.

1884: Princess Ida is first performed at the Savoy on January 5th. It runs for 246 performances.

Check out original costumes from this production.

Historic Note:
After two dress rehearsals lasting over seven hours each, Sullivan was seized with excruciating neck and shoulder pains. Fortified with morphia and black coffee he conducts the opening performance, takes his bow and then faints. It takes him nearly a month to recover, after which he leaves for the continent.

1884: Gilbert's fairy comedy The Palace of Truth is revived for the opening of the Prince's Theatre on Jan 25th.

1884: Gilbert's one act drama Comedy and Tragedy receives its first performance at the Lyceum Theatre, London, on January 26th.

1884: The Sorcerer is revived on October 11th after dwindling box office receipts for Princess Ida. Richard Temple, Rutland Barrington and George Grossmith recreate their original roles. Durward Lely plays Dr Daly, Rosina Brandram plays Aline and Jessie Bond plays Constance. The Sorcerer is coupled with Trial By Jury.


Historic Note:
Sir Arthur Sullivan was once asked where he was able to compose best, and under what circumstances his ideas flowed most freely. His answer surprised everyone. "There is no place," he said, "where I have so many inspirations as in a railway carriage. there is something in the rapidity of the motion; in the clanging of the iron, and the wheels, which seems to excite the imagination, and supplies material for a host of strange harmonies."

Continue on to 1885 To the Operas