Gilbert & Sullivan: A Motley Pair

ARTS CHANNEL – Monday 6 to Friday 10 December, 7.00pm

A five-part series by Tony Britten. Host Simon Butteriss has a formidable knowledge of Gilbert & Sullivan and is probably the leading contemporary ‘patterman’ – performer of the crucial comic roles contained in most of the operas.

Ep 1: If you want to know who we are. We look at Gilbert’s origins as a playwright, Sullivan’s role as Queen Victoria’s favourite composer and their initial partnership with the productions of “Thespis” and “Trial by Jury”.

Ep 2: The very models of a modern major musical. Richard D’Oyly Carte, the Victorian Cameron Mackintosh, propels the duo into “The Sorcerer”, “HMS Pinafore” and the “Pirates of Penzance”. We also start to trace the origins of the modern musical back to G&S.

Ep 3: Monarchs of all they Savoy. “Patience”, “Iolanthe” and the “Princes Ida” continue to make G&S the most popular comic opera exponents on both sides of the Atlantic, although the relationship between Gilbert and Sullivan becomes increasingly fraught.

Ep 4: Night after night to the wicked Theayter”. And night after night it was, for the cast of “The Mikado”, the most successful of all operas. “Ruddigore” continues the trend, the direct influence for Sondheim’s “Sweeny Todd”. “The Yeomen of the Guard” proves that both writers were capable of creating serious and emotionally charged stage works.

Ep 5: Deputy Deities. The deities that G&S had mocked in their first work, “Thespis” were now themselves – despite their mutual antagonism, the pair were still capable of enchanting audiences with “The Gondoliers”, although their last two stage works: “Utopia Limited” and “The Grand Duke” were evidence that the partnership had finally come to an end.

Written and presented by Simon Butteriss.

Directed by Tony Britten

Produced by Capriol Films for Sky Arts [UK]