Retreat from Satire: ‘The Gondoliers’

  • Charles Hayter
Part of the Macmillan Modern Dramatists book series (MD)


Iolanthe was the last Gilbert and Sullivan opera to be set in Victorian England. Beginning with Princess Ida in 1884, the partnership entered a new phase. During the original run of Patience (1881), the Savoy Theatre opened; it was there that eight comic operas were presented from 1882 to 1896. Prior to this period, the relationship between author and composer was harmonious, but after 1882 the collaboration was interrupted by a series of disagreements of increasing seriousness and ill-feeling. The operas of the early phase are stylistically homogenous, but those written in the later period have a variety of approach that reflects the collaborators’ attempts to find a style of work that was mutually satisfying. Ruddigore, a witty parody of melodrama, is a return to the mode of burlesque popular in the 1860s and 1870s; The Yeoman of the Guard is a throwback to the form and style of the English romantic opera. In general, the operas of this phase show a retreat from satire and an increasing emphasis on music, comic characterisation and spectacle.


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  1. 5.
    Hicks’ rather unpleasant memories of Gilbert are found in his autobiography, Between Ourselves (London: Cassell, 1930), pp. 49ff.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Charles Hayter 1987

Authors and Affiliations

  • Charles Hayter
    • 1
  1. 1.KingstonCanada

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