‘The Placid English Style’: Ideology and Performance

  • Michael Goron
Part of the Palgrave Studies in British Musical Theatre book series (PSBMT)


In this innovative study of embodied performance, Goron examines acting and singing styles in the original performances of the Gilbert and Sullivan operas to discover whether they derived from and reflected the cultural values of the ‘respectable’ Victorian middle classes. The ‘restrained’ Savoy style is contrasted with that of the ‘low’ comedy and sexual ‘knowingness’ of contemporary burlesque to evaluate the significance of methods used at the Savoy.

Goron goes on to explore the role of W.S. Gilbert as ‘auteur’ in the creation of a theatrical brand which epitomised bourgeois cultural and material values. Stringent policies concerning the interpolation of non-scripted, semi-improvisatory ‘gags’ by performers are considered as challenges to the fundamental ideological, hierarchical and commercial requirements of the D’Oyly Carte organisation, and by implication to Victorian notions of professionalism and respectability.


Stage Manager Daily News Musical Theatre Musical Stage High Spirit 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


  1. London County Council Metropolitan Archive (GLC/AR/BR/19/0047).Google Scholar
  2. Archer, W. (1886). About the theatre. London: T. Fisher Unwin.Google Scholar
  3. Archer, W. (1904). Real conversations. London: Heinemann.Google Scholar
  4. Baker, A., 2005. Moore, (Lilian) Decima (1871–1964), actress. Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. [Online] Available at: [Accessed 24 February 2014].
  5. Baker, R., 2005. British Music Hall: An Illustrated History. London: Sutton.Google Scholar
  6. Bradley, I., 2001. The Complete Annotated Savoy Operas. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  7. Barrington, R. (1908). Rutland Barrington, by himself. London: Grant Richards.Google Scholar
  8. Bond, J. (1930). The life and reminiscences of Jessie Bond the Old Savoyard. London: John Lane the Bodley Head.Google Scholar
  9. Cellier, F., & Bridgeman, C. (1914). Gilbert, Sullivan and D’Oyly Carte. London: Pitman.Google Scholar
  10. Filon, A. (1897). The English Stage. London: John Milne.Google Scholar
  11. Fitzgerald, P. (1894). The Savoy Operas and the Savoyards. London: Chatto & Windus.Google Scholar
  12. Gilbert, W., & Goldberg, I. (Eds.). (1931). New and original extravaganzas. Boston: John W. Luce & Co.Google Scholar
  13. Grossmith, G. (1888). A society clown: Reminiscences. Bristol: J.W. Arrowsmith.Google Scholar
  14. Hardy, T. M. (1910). How to train children’s voices. London: J. Curwen.Google Scholar
  15. Hartley, C. (1860). The Gentleman’s book of etiquette and manual of politeness. Boston: G.W. Cottrell.Google Scholar
  16. Lytton, H. (1922). The secrets of a Savoyard. London: Jarrolds.Google Scholar
  17. Passmore, W. (1930). Some recollections of Savoy Days. Gilbert and Sullivan Journal, June, 1, 152.Google Scholar
  18. Roberts, A. (1927). Fifty years of spoof. London: The Bodley Head.Google Scholar
  19. Temple, R. (1902), reproduced (1999). The art of the Savoyard [Sound Recording] (Pearl).Google Scholar
  20. The Mikado. (1939). [Film] Directed by V. Shertzinger. Great Britain: Universal Pictures.Google Scholar
  21. Ainger, M. (2002). Gilbert and Sullivan—A dual biography. Oxford: Oxford University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Bailey, P. (1998). Popular culture and performance in the Victorian City. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  23. Barton Baker, H. (1904). The history of the London Stage and its famous players (1576–1903). London: George Routledge and Sons.Google Scholar
  24. Booth, M. (1980). Prefaces to English nineteenth century theatre. Manchester: Manchester University Press.Google Scholar
  25. Booth, M. R. (1991). Theatre in the Victorian Age. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  26. Bratton, J. (2003). New readings in theatre history. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  27. Bratton, J. (2011). The making of the West End Stage. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Carlson, M. (2003). The haunted stage. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press.Google Scholar
  29. Crowther, A. (2000). Contradiction contradicted—The plays of W.S. Gilbert. London: Associated University Presses.Google Scholar
  30. Crowther, A. (2011). Gilbert of Gilbert and Sullivan: His life and character. Stroud: The History Press.Google Scholar
  31. Curtin, M. (1994). Propriety and position. New York: Garland Publishing.Google Scholar
  32. Dark, S., & Grey, R. (1923). W.S. Gilbert; His life and letters. London: Methuen.Google Scholar
  33. Davis, T. (2000). The economics of the British Stage 1800–1914. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  34. Davis, J. (2004). Actors and their repertoires. In J. Donohue (Ed.), The Cambridge history of British theatre—Volume 2 (pp. 1660–1895). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  35. Foster, G. (2000). Troping the body. Carbondale: Southern Illinois University Press.Google Scholar
  36. Goodman, A. (1988). Gilbert and Sullivan’s London. London: Faber & Faber.Google Scholar
  37. Green, M. (1962). Martyn Green’s treasury of Gilbert and Sullivan. London: Joseph.Google Scholar
  38. Houghton, W. E. (1957). The Victorian frame of mind, 1830–1870. Newhaven and London: Yale University Press.Google Scholar
  39. Joseph, T. (1994). The D’Oyly Carte Opera Company 1875–1982. Bristol: Bunthorne Books.Google Scholar
  40. Langford, M. (1980). The story of photography. London: Focal Press.Google Scholar
  41. Langland, E. (1995). Nobody’s Angels: Middle class women and domestic ideology in Victorian culture. New York: Cornell University Press.Google Scholar
  42. Lewes, G., (1875) reprinted 1968. On Actors and the Art of Acting. New York: Greenwood.Google Scholar
  43. MacPhail, R. (2011). The Mikado (Film Extras) [Interview] 2011.Google Scholar
  44. Olwage, G. (2004). The class and colour of tone: An essay on the social history of Vocal Timbre’. Ethnomusicology Forum, 13(2).Google Scholar
  45. Oost, R. B. (2009). Gilbert and Sullivan: Class and the Savoy Tradition, 1875–1896. Farnham: Ashgate.Google Scholar
  46. Osterman, M. (2009). George Eastman House. Notes on photographs: Wet collodian on glass negatives [Online]. Accessed 25 February, 2014, from
  47. Passmore, W., 1900-13 reproduced 1996. Sir Arthur Sullivan Sesquicentenial Commemorative Issue 1842-1992 Vol.2. [Sound Recording] (Symposium).Google Scholar
  48. Perkin, H. (1989). The rise of professional society: England since 1880. London: Routledge.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  49. Pick, J. (1983). The West End: Mismanagement and Snobbery. Eastbourne: John Offord.Google Scholar
  50. Postlewaite, T. (2009). The Cambridge introduction to theatre historiography. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  51. Potter, J. (1998). Vocal authority—Singing style and ideology. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  52. Prestige, C. (1971). D’Oyly Carte and the Pirates: The original New York productions of Gilbert and Sullivan. In: J. Helyar (Ed.), Gilbert and Sullivan. Papers presented at the International Conference held at the University of Kansas in May 1970. Lawrence: University of Kansas Libraries.Google Scholar
  53. Rollins, C., & Witts, R. (1962). The D’Oyly Carte Opera company in Gilbert and Sullivan Operas. A record of productions 1875 – 1961. London: Michael Joseph.Google Scholar
  54. Russell, W. (1888). Representative actors. London: Frederick Warne & Co.Google Scholar
  55. Schoch, R. W. (2003). Victorian theatrical Burlesque. Burlington: Ashgate.Google Scholar
  56. Schoch, R. W. (2004). Theatre and mid-Victorian society. In J. Donohue (Ed.), The Cambridge history of British theatre (Vol. 2, pp. 1660–1895). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  57. Stedman, J. (1972). From dame to woman: W.S. Gilbert and theatrical transvestism. In M. Vicinus (Ed.), Suffer and be still: Women in the Victorian Age. Indiana: Indiana University Press.Google Scholar
  58. Stedman, J. (1996). W.S. Gilbert—A classic Victorian and his theatre. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  59. Taylor, H.S.E., (1887). reprinted. 2012. An Entirely Irrational Musical Parody in One Act and a Deed entitled Ruddy George or, Robin Redbreast. Unknown: Stage Memories.Google Scholar
  60. Taylor, G. (1989). Players and performance in the Victorian theatre. Manchester: Manchester University Press.Google Scholar
  61. Temple, R., 1902, reproduced 1999. The Art of the Savoyard. [Sound Recording] (Pearl).Google Scholar
  62. Walters, M. (2000). A Parody of a Parody: Ruddy George or Robin Redbreast. The Gilbert and Sullivan Journal, Autumn/Winter.Google Scholar
  63. Wolfson, J. (1999). The art of the Savoyard—CD liner notes. Wodhurst: Pearl.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  • Michael Goron
    • 1
    • 2
  1. 1.Southampton SolentSouthamptonUK
  2. 2.University of WinchesterWinchesterUK

Personalised recommendations