Iolanthe

Definition

Theater

  • One of Gilbert and Sullivan's Savoy Operas, subtitledThe Peer and the Peri. It was first produced in 1882 at theSavoy Theatre and ran for nearly 400 performances.

    The story involves the Arcadian fairy Iolanthe, who has beenbanished for 25 years by the Fairy Queen for marrying a mortal andhaving his son, Strephon. The young man now wishes to marry Phyllis,a ward in chancery who has also attracted the Lord Chancellor's interest.After Strephon becomes a member of parliament, Iolanthe names theLord Chancellor as her mortal lover and Strephon's father. wings sprouton the peers, and they fly off to Fairyland.

    Iolanthe was intended as a satirical attack on womenin politics and on the British legal and parliamentary systems. Themessage was softened when Gilbert and Sullivan removed the two mostbiting songs, but they still managed to score a few points, as inthis Westminster sentry's song:

    When in that house MPs divide,
    If they've a brain and cerebellum, too,
    They've got to leave that brain outside,
    And vote just as their leaders tell 'em to.
    The Fairy Queen has sometimes been played to resemble suchfigures as Queen Victoria or Margaret Thatcher.
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