Opera by Sir Arthur Sullivan with libretto by W.S. Gilbert.

Alphabetic list of Opera by Sir Arthur Sullivan with libretto by W.S. Gilbert

From 1871 to 1896 (25 years), Gilbert and Sullivan collaborated on 14 operas. They are funny, have many catchy tunes, and are relatively easy to stage. As a result, this is perhaps the most frequently performed series of operas in history.

  1. The Gondoliers.
  2. The Grand Duke.
  3. Iolanthe.
  4. The Mikado.
  5. Patience.
  6. H.M.S. Pinafore.
  7. The Pirates of Penzance.
  8. Princess Ida.
  9. Ruddigore.
  10. The Sorcerer.
  11. Thespis.
  12. Trial by Jury.
  13. Utopia Limited.
  14. Yeomen of the Guard.

Chronological list of Opera by Sir Arthur Sullivan with libretto by W.S. Gilbert

Year of initial performance Opera Title
1871 Thespis
1875 Trial by Jury
1877 The Sorcerer
1878 H.M.S. Pinafore
1880 The Pirates of Penzance
1881 Patience
1882 Iolanthe
1884 Princess Ida
1885 The Mikado
1887 Ruddigore
1888 Yeomen of the Guard
1889 The Gondoliers
1893 Utopia Limited
1896 The Grand Duke

Specific Operas (chronological) by Sir Arthur Sullivan with libretto by W.S. Gilbert


Trial by Jury

The Sorcerer

Who do you love? With the help of the Sorcerer's love philter, everyone in the village falls in love with the first person they see ... usually the wrong person. Quite realistic, actually.

Also see log of The Sorcerer.

H.M.S. Pinafore

The Pirates of Penzance

Patience, or Bunthorne's Bride

A musical meditation on love and pretension. Bunthorne, a pretentious poet, is loved by twenty "rapturous" and "love-sick maidens", who all plead for his love, to the bemusement of Patience, the village milkmaid. However, Bunthorne thinks he is in love with Patience, to her horror:

   I cannot tell what this love may be
      That cometh to all but not to me.
   It cannot be kind as they'd imply
      Or why do these ladies sigh?
   It cannot be joy and rapture deep
      Or why do these gentle ladies weep?
   I cannot be blissful as 'tis said
      Or why are their eyes so wondrous red?     

Meanwhile a colonel, a major, a duke, and their soldiers in the dragoon guards, wearing toy-soldier bright uniforms, are all annoyed that their erstwhile fiancés are infatuated with the foppish Bunthorne.

By a series of unlikely coincidences that Charles Dickens might have admired, the love of Patience's life appears: Grosvenor, another poet, and a childhood friend she had not seen since she was four. He proposes marriage to her in three stanzas and complains of his misfortune in being a "trustee for beauty" so that every maiden that sees him falls in love with him. But Patience says sadly that she cannot love Grosvenor because he (as he tells her often) is perfect. So there would be nothing unselfish in marrying him, and love must be unselfish. Patience then decides that to be truly unselfish, she will accept the marriage proposal of the foolish Bunthorne.

Meanwhile the colonel, the major, the duke, and the men, none of whom are convinced of the value of aesthetics, decide they had better imitate Bunthorne to win the women's love. Bunthorne, on legal advice, raffles himself off. Somehow, everyone seems to end up marrying who they want to, except Bunthorne does not get Patience.

Also see log of Patience.

Iolanthe, or The Peer and the Peri

["Peri" (from the Persian) is a fairy descended from the disobedient and doing penance till readmitted to paradise.] A musical meditation on love and pretension -- a successful combination for the Gilbert and Sullivan team.

Some of W.S. Gilbert's finest light opera music.

The queen of the fairies (Anne Collins as a Nordic Fairy Queen) has banished the fairy Iolanthe (Beverly Mills) from fairy land for marrying a mortal, "an act that strikes at the root of the fairy system". The odd system is revealed whereby the Lord Chancellor used to assign nubile wards of court to Peers of the Realm for marriage. Iolanthe's son, half fairy, plans to marry such a Ward. Complications ensure, resolved in the finale by the Peers convincing the Fairy Queen to changing the law from death to any fairy 'who marries a mortal' to 'who doesn't marry a mortal'.

Favorite songs include:

Also see log of Iolanthe.

Princess Ida

The Mikado

The best music of any Gilbert and Sullivan opera. Particularly excellent in the BBC staging of The Mikado:

Favorite songs include:

Also see log of Mikado.


Watch (DVD) the delightful LSO version (director Barrie Gavin) with Vincent Price in a part that could have been written for him: Sir Despard Murgatroyd, the Wicked Baronet of Ruddigore. While he may be rubbish as a singer, Price excels at melodramatic acting.

All the village lads love Rose Maybud, but are too shy to court her. Robin Oakapple, who also loves Rose, becomes the wicked Baronet of Ruddigore, and must commit a daily crime or be tortured to death by his ancestors, whose ghosts step from their portraits to confront him.

Also see log of Ruddigore.

Yeomen of the Guard

The Gondoliers, or The King of Barataria

One of the most delightful of all G&S operas. Two recently married young gondoliers learn from the Grand Inquisitor that one of them is the King of Barataria, and "of that there is no possible doubt, no possible, probable shadow of doubt, no possible doubt whatever" However, no one know which of the two is the king.

In true Republican manner, the gondoliers travel to Barataria where they work jointly as king making each of their friends "somebody" in the new court. Until in true confused-identity style, all is revealed.

Many great songs including: "I Stole the Prince", "A Regular Royal Queen", "They Shall All Equal Be", "Take a Pair of Sparkling Eyes", and "On the Day When I was Wedded to Your Admirable Sire".

Also see log of Gondoliers.

Utopia Limited

The Grand Duke, or The Statutory Duel