The Gondoliers

Definition

Theater

  • The happiest of Gilbert and Sullivan's Savoy Operas.Subtitled The King of Barataria, the work was first performedin 1889 at the Savoy Theatre, London. The two men worked togetheramicably enough on the piece but fell out irretrievably shortly afterwards,a fact that probably explains the failure of their subsequent works.

    Set in Venice, the story involves Marco and Giuseppe, twogondoliers whose weddings take place while the Duke of Plaza-Torois visiting the city with his daughter. The Duke's daughter, Casilda,had 20 years earlier been married by proxy to the infant Prince ofBarataria, who was abducted shortly afterwards. The circumstancessuggest that one of the two gondoliers is in fact the prince, althoughit is not clear which. When informed, Marco and Giuseppe leave theirnew wives to share the throne of Barataria. Casilda intends to marrythe true king as soon as he is identified by an old nurse. The nurse,however, reveals that she had switched her own child for the princebefore the kidnapping. The true king is therefore Luiz, Casilda'sattendant. The royal couple are united, and the gondoliers returndelighted to their wives.

    The Gondoliers was written four years after the publicationof the second part of Marx's Das Kapital (1885), allowing Gilbertto lampoon the idea of communism in several verses:

    The Aristocrat who banks with Coutts,
    The Aristocrat who hunts and shoots,
    The Aristocrat who cleans our boots -
    They all shall equal be!
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