A report on H.M.S. Pinafore and Bass-baritone

Theatre poster, 1879
Punch cartoon, 1877, portraying First Lord of the Admiralty W. H. Smith as a land-lubber, saying: "I think I'll now go below." In Pinafore, Sir Joseph similarly sings: "When the breezes blow / I generally go below".
Scene from 1886 Savoy Theatre souvenir programme
Illustration of the characters in Act II by D. H. Friston, 1878
Rutland Barrington as A.B.S. Corcoran at the end of Pinafore
Poster illustration from original 1878 production
Opening night programme cover
Advertisement for a (probably unlicensed) American production of H.M.S. Pinafore
1880 programme for Carte's Children's Pinafore
Ruth Vincent as Josephine in 1899
Punch cartoon mocking Sullivan for his focus on comic opera
Rutland Barrington as Captain Corcoran in the first London revival, 1887
Souvenir programme cover from 1878 during the run of the original production
Theatre poster for an American production, c. 1879
Gilbert's Illustration of "A British tar" (1906)
Bond as Hebe with Grossmith as Sir Joseph, 1887 revival
Frontispiece by Alice B. Woodward to The Pinafore Picture Book, 1908
W.S. Gilbert in about 1878
Arthur Seymour Sullivan

H.M.S. Pinafore: Dick Deadeye

- Bass-baritone

Dick Deadeye, Able Seaman (bass-baritone)

- H.M.S. Pinafore
Theatre poster, 1879

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One of Gilbert's illustrations for his Bab Ballad "Gentle Alice Brown"

Gilbert and Sullivan

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One of Gilbert's illustrations for his Bab Ballad "Gentle Alice Brown"
Ages Ago, during a rehearsal for which Frederic Clay introduced Gilbert to Sullivan
The Crystal Palace, where several early Sullivan works were first performed
A contemporary illustration of Thespis from The Illustrated London News of 6 January 1872
D. H. Friston's engraving of the original production of Trial by Jury
An early poster showing scenes from The Sorcerer, Pinafore, and Trial by Jury
The Pirate King
George Grossmith as Bunthorne in Patience, 1881
Barnett as The Fairy Queen
Princess Ida, Act II Finale: Hildebrand and soldiers rush through the gate.
Poster for The Mikado
W.H. Denny as Wilfred and Jessie Bond as Phoebe in Yeomen
Rutland Barrington and Courtice Pounds as Giuseppe and Marco in The Gondoliers
Original facade of the Savoy Theatre c.1881
In the midst of the quarrel, Gilbert dedicated a collection of Savoy opera lyrics, Songs of a Savoyard, to the composer
The drawing room scene from Act II of Utopia, Limited
The Entr'acte expresses its pleasure that Gilbert and Sullivan are reunited
1921 cartoon of Gilbert and Sullivan audiences
Advertisement for the first recording of The Mikado, 1917
Detail from a Punch cartoon, showing Sullivan and Gilbert.
1880 Pirates poster
Frontispiece to The Pinafore Picture Book, 1908
Poster for Ages Ago, during a rehearsal for which Frederic Clay introduced Gilbert to Sullivan

Gilbert and Sullivan were a Victorian-era theatrical partnership of the dramatist W. S. Gilbert (1836–1911) and the composer Arthur Sullivan (1842–1900), who jointly created fourteen comic operas between 1871 and 1896, of which H.M.S. Pinafore, The Pirates of Penzance and The Mikado are among the best known.

The libretto of H.M.S. Pinafore relied on stock character types, many of which were familiar from European opera (and some of which grew out of Gilbert's earlier association with the German Reeds): the heroic protagonist (tenor) and his love-interest (soprano); the older woman with a secret or a sharp tongue (contralto); the baffled lyric baritone—the girl's father; and a classic villain (bass-baritone).

Theatre poster, 1884

The Sorcerer

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Two-act comic opera, with a libretto by W. S. Gilbert and music by Arthur Sullivan.

Two-act comic opera, with a libretto by W. S. Gilbert and music by Arthur Sullivan.

Theatre poster, 1884
1878 programme cover
Richard Temple with Mrs Howard Paul in The Sorcerer (1877)
Incantation scene
Act II opening, from 1884 programme
Henry Lytton (J. W. Wells), Elsie Griffin (Aline) and Derek Oldham (Alexis), 1920
W. S. Gilbert illustration, 1890
From 1877 programme
Poster by H. M. Brock for the 1919 revival
Walter Passmore as J. W. Wells in the 1898 revival
Dr Daly accompanies himself on a flageolet on stage
"Welcome, joy, adieu to sadness!"
Grossmith as J. W. Wells, his first of many "patter roles". Sketch by W. S. Gilbert
Rutland Barrington as Dr Daly
Bond, as Constance, pines for Dr Daly, 1884
Warwick and Bentham, 1878, after Warwick took over the role of Aline
Wallpaper showing characters from The Sorcerer and other Savoy operas

It was considered a success by the standards of that time and encouraged the collaborators to write their next opera, H.M.S. Pinafore.

Sir Marmaduke Pointdextre, an Elderly Baronet (bass-baritone)

Baritone vocal range (G2–G4) notated on the bass staff (left) and on the piano keyboard in green with middle C (C4) shown in yellow

Baritone

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Type of classical male singing voice whose vocal range lies between the bass and the tenor voice-types.

Type of classical male singing voice whose vocal range lies between the bass and the tenor voice-types.

Baritone vocal range (G2–G4) notated on the bass staff (left) and on the piano keyboard in green with middle C (C4) shown in yellow

Many operatic works of the 18th century have roles marked as bass that in reality are low baritone roles (or bass-baritone parts in modern parlance).

Bill Bobstay (Boatswain's Mate), H.M.S. Pinafore

Drawing of the Act I finale

The Pirates of Penzance

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Comic opera in two acts, with music by Arthur Sullivan and libretto by W. S. Gilbert.

Comic opera in two acts, with music by Arthur Sullivan and libretto by W. S. Gilbert.

Drawing of the Act I finale
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Poster for the copyright performance at Paignton
George Grossmith as General Stanley, wearing Wolseley's trademark moustache
Marion Hood: "Yes, 'tis Mabel!"
George Power, the original Frederic in London
"Have mercy on us!"
Drawing of Richard Temple as the Pirate King
Isabel Jay as Mabel
Pirate King Henry Lytton denounces Major-General C. H. Workman.
1880 poster
1881 programme cover
Drawing from programme of children's Pirates, 1884
Smith, Ronstadt and Kline at the Delacorte Theatre
Opera Australia's 2007 touring production of Pirates, with Anthony Warlow as the Pirate King
The Major-General carries an encyclopedia in this "Bab" drawing.
Wallpaper showing characters from Pirates and other Savoy operas

Pirates remains popular today, taking its place along with The Mikado and H.M.S. Pinafore as one of the most frequently played Gilbert and Sullivan operas.

The Pirate King (bass-baritone)

Theatre poster for The Mikado

The Mikado

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Comic opera in two acts, with music by Arthur Sullivan and libretto by W. S. Gilbert, their ninth of fourteen operatic collaborations.

Comic opera in two acts, with music by Arthur Sullivan and libretto by W. S. Gilbert, their ninth of fourteen operatic collaborations.

Theatre poster for The Mikado
Cover of vocal score, c. 1895
Photo at the Japanese village taken by W. S. Gilbert
Durward Lely as Nanki-Poo
Ko-Ko – 1926 costume design by Charles Ricketts
Nanki-Poo as a wand'ring minstrel, from The Story of the Mikado. Art by Alice B. Woodward.
Theatre poster, Edinburgh, 1885
Political parody celebrating the bicentennial of Albany, New York
Geraldine Ulmar, Yum-Yum in the New York cast
Ko-Ko reveals that when a man is beheaded, his wife is buried alive: from Gilbert's children's book The Story of the Mikado. Art by Alice B. Woodward.
Grossmith "made up" as Ko-Ko
Temple as the Mikado
Barrington: "Lord-high everything else"
D'Oyly Carte Opera Company production, 1962
Cover of re-issue of 1907 Mikado recording
Cover of The Story of the Mikado. Art by Alice B. Woodward.
1886 advertisement featuring the "three little maids"
Wallpaper showing characters from The Mikado and other Savoy operas
From The Capitalist, 1888
Film poster for The Little Shop of Horrors parodying the song "The Flowers that Bloom in the Spring, Tra la!" changing the word "bloom" to "kill"

The Mikado of Japan (bass or bass-baritone)

In America, as had happened with H.M.S. Pinafore, the first productions were unauthorised, but once D'Oyly Carte's American production opened in August 1885, it was a success, earning record profits, and Carte formed several companies to tour the show in North America.

Bass vocal range (E2–E4) notated on the bass staff (left) and on piano keyboard in green with dot marking middle C (C4).

Bass (voice type)

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Type of classical male singing voice and has the lowest vocal range of all voice types.

Type of classical male singing voice and has the lowest vocal range of all voice types.

Bass vocal range (E2–E4) notated on the bass staff (left) and on piano keyboard in green with dot marking middle C (C4).

It is produced using a more Italianate vocal production, and possesses a faster vibrato, than its closest Germanic/Anglo-Saxon equivalent, the bass-baritone.

Bob Becket (Carpenter's mate), H.M.S. Pinafore

Theatre poster for The Mikado

D'Oyly Carte Opera Company

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Professional British light opera company that, from the 1870s until 1982, staged Gilbert and Sullivan's Savoy operas nearly year-round in the UK and sometimes toured in Europe, North America and elsewhere.

Professional British light opera company that, from the 1870s until 1982, staged Gilbert and Sullivan's Savoy operas nearly year-round in the UK and sometimes toured in Europe, North America and elsewhere.

Theatre poster for The Mikado
Richard D'Oyly Carte
Helen Lenoir
Scene from 1886 Savoy Theatre souvenir programme
1881 theatre programme for Patience
Original facade of the Savoy Theatre, c. 1881
Lithograph from The Mikado
Touring advertisement, c. 1890
Grossmith comforts Carte after failure of The Grand Duke.
Rupert D'Oyly Carte
Souvenir programme cover, 1919–20 season
1921 cartoon: D'Oyly Carte audiences
Ricketts's 1926 Mikado design
Planter in front of the Savoy Hotel honouring the Carte family and colleagues
George Grossmith as Bunthorne in Patience
Passmore as Rudolph in The Grand Duke
Henry Lytton, 1901

When that work, Trial by Jury, became a success, Carte put together a syndicate to produce a full-length Gilbert and Sullivan work, The Sorcerer (1877), followed by H.M.S. Pinafore (1878).

Other performers who created a long series of roles in the original productions of the operas included the baritone Rutland Barrington, mezzo-soprano Jessie Bond, soprano Leonora Braham, contralto Rosina Brandram, tenor Durward Lely and bass-baritone Richard Temple.

A scene from Trial by Jury as illustrated in the magazine Illustrated Sporting and Dramatic News of 1 May 1875

Trial by Jury

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Comic opera in one act, with music by Arthur Sullivan and libretto by W. S. Gilbert.

Comic opera in one act, with music by Arthur Sullivan and libretto by W. S. Gilbert.

A scene from Trial by Jury as illustrated in the magazine Illustrated Sporting and Dramatic News of 1 May 1875
Gilbert's original sketch of Trial by Jury, published in Fun in 1868
April 1875 programme for La Périchole and Trial by Jury. Sullivan and Gilbert are the cherubs.
The Usher advises the jury. Drawing by W. S. Gilbert
Third page of the 1875 programme
Sullivan's original thematic sketch of Trial by Jury
Fred Sullivan as The Learned Judge
Part of the vocal score of "A nice dilemma"
Rutland Barrington as the Learned Judge
Poster advertising operettas by Gilbert & Sullivan; includes Trial by Jury
The Plaintiff, in "distress", captures the sympathy of the judge and jury. Production with Sydney Granville, 1919

Usher (bass-baritone)

For instance, when preparing the sets for H.M.S. Pinafore (1878), Gilbert and Sullivan visited Portsmouth to inspect ships.

1881 Programme for Patience

Patience (opera)

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Comic opera in two acts with music by Arthur Sullivan and libretto by W. S. Gilbert.

Comic opera in two acts with music by Arthur Sullivan and libretto by W. S. Gilbert.

1881 Programme for Patience
Many Punch cartoons satirised æsthetes. Both Patience and The Colonel are mentioned here. A tiny, pennant-waving Gilbert peeks out of Sullivan's backpack at lower right.
George Grossmith as Bunthorne
Sydney Granville as Grosvenor
Aesthetic dress (left and right) contrasted with 'fashionable attire' (centre), 1881
"Rapturous maidens" await Bunthorne
Passmore as Bunthorne "curses" Lytton as Grosvenor
Alice Barnett as Lady Jane
"...and here we are!" (left to right: Dow, Workman and René, 1907)
"...sing 'boo' to you" (Lytton and Lewis, 1919)
Lillian Russell as Patience at the Bijou Opera House in New York, 1882
Illustration from an 1885 programme
Jessie Bond as Lady Angela

It ran for a total of 578 performances, which was seven more than the authors' earlier work, H.M.S. Pinafore, and the second longest run of any work of musical theatre up to that time, after the operetta Les Cloches de Corneville.

Colonel Calverley (Officer of Dragoon Guards) (bass-baritone)