Scene 5: 1887-1893 From RuddIgore to The Gondoliers
(The ghostly Sir Roderic appears through a trapdoor before the curtain.)
RuddIgore: When the night wind howls
(Roderic exits. It is 1894, the Savoy Grill moves on. Carte, Shaw and Wilde are enjoying brandy and cigars and continuing their discussion.)
Shaw After all the fuss that led up to the Mikado I must confess to being somewhat confused. Sullivan insisted that there be no supernatural or improbable theme. But ‘Ruddigore’ was billed as a supernatural opera, it was a parody of melodrama presenting witches, curses and portraits coming to life as ghosts.
Carte Of course Sullivan was at this time earning accolades for his cantata, ‘The Golden Legend’. It did well in Leeds. Then he watched it performed in the Crystal Palace with an orchestra and a choir of 3,500. At long last he was receiving praise for a piece of serious work so I imagine that he was feeling much more relaxed in general.
Wilde Didn’t the first night audience at Ruddigore hiss and boo?
Carte It did necessitate some rapid re-writes and the change of its name from Ruddygore with a ‘y’ to Ruddigore with an ‘I’. This was not an issue for me, it was more that it proved such an expensive production, the chorus was attired as officers from no fewer than twenty regiments. Field Marshal Lord Wolesely had been invited to inspect the uniforms for veracity, though in the event it was Sir Arthur Herbert, his quartermaster, who actually carried out the inspection. The uniforms and properties cost us £5,000 and the two sets £2,000.
Shaw The operetta was generally considered as something of a failure.
Carte That was the impression, yet the receipts in the first week were £3,337 compared with the ‘Mikado’ at just £1,209. The performances routinely had fourteen encores and it ran for eight months. Receipts from the libretto and score were strong for the author and composer.
Shaw But the next year they were considered to be back on song with ‘The Yeomen of the Guard’.
Carte But not before Gilbert once again sought to present yet another version of his magic lozenge! I assume that he considered that as Ruddigore had been approved with its improbable content, then why not try again? To his credit, Sullivan did not dismiss it out of hand but after due consideration he made it clear that he thought It impossible to feel any sympathy with a single person in it; therefore he was not prepared to set it in its present form.
Shaw Credit? Wasn’t he being rather inconsistent?
Carte We agreed to run revivals to take the pressure off producing the new opera. Sullivan had been charged with producing an ode for the Jubilee as a royal request, so in the meantime he could give this his attention.
Wilde I heard somewhere that ‘Yeomen’ was inspired by a poster?
Carte Yes, reputedly Gilbert was on Uxbridge railway station and saw a poster for a retailer called The Tower Furnishing Company which displayed a picture of the Tower of London. When he presented his sketch to us both, Sullivan was delighted that it was human, funny and had no trace of any topsy-turveydom.
Shaw I am uneasy that this might mean that Gilbert’s creative spirit was being somehow constrained.
Carte No, Gilbert appeared to be much changed – for the good. Despite the subject he did not set out to satirise any establishment figures, he even provided Sullivan with alternative lyrics to assist him with setting the composition. I understand that on one occasion he assisted Sullivan when stalled on the rhythm for ‘I have a song to sing-O’, Gilbert hummed a Cornish sea shanty that he had in mind when he wrote the lyrics. His use of the same set for both Acts kept control of the production costs. He was a changed man!
Shaw The name has always been puzzling because the Yeomen of the Guard are in fact the monarch’s personal bodyguard and not Beefeaters?
Wilde Tch! They have similar Tudor uniforms, so does it much matter?
Carte It was originally called ‘The Tower Warder’, when Gilbert proposed to rename it as ‘The Beefeaters’ Sullivan was unenthusiastic.
But this time it was Sullivan who created the hiatus in the preparations. He noted that Cellier’s ‘Dorothy’ had reached its 500th performance and wrote to Gilbert in some turmoil to say they now faced some real competition. He seemed to take it as further indication that he should abandon light opera to others.
Shaw Perhaps he had a point, ‘Dorothy’ ran for 931 performances, as yet, no Gilbert and Sullivan piece has every reached close to that number.
Wilde Let us not deny there was a large degree of self-interest too. You were planning the construction of your Royal English Opera House and Sullivan craved it as a vehicle for his grand opera.
Carte I found it very difficult raising the capital for my next two projects, the hotel (he waves an arm around the hotel surrounding them) and the opera house. I realised that if I was to achieve the new Opera House then I needed either to let or to sell the Savoy. To make things worse that was at the time that ‘Ruddigore’ was ailing and the lozenge argument was ongoing. I was privately writing to Sullivan for his support in this matter. I felt that he was best placed to convince Gilbert of the approach.
Wilde Surely you were somewhat abusing the triumvirate by doing that?
Carte Perhaps. It was Gilbert that resolved Sullivan’s fears about ‘Dorothy’ by stressing that it was not the same class of piece as the Savoy operas. He said something like, “We have the best theatre, the best company, the best composer and the best librettist working together. We are world-known and to scatter all this because Dorothy has run for 500 nights, is to give up a gold mine’. As I said he was a changed man, and his persistence was rewarded with nine encores on the opening night of ‘Yeomen’ and over 400 performances.
Wilde Yet I understand Gilbert spent the opening night watching ‘The Armada’ at Drury Lane!
Carte As always he found that he could not remain in the theatre, yet he always managed to arrive in time for the curtain calls.
Shaw I always wondered if the choice of subject had something to do with seeking to annexe the then historical fervour during the Queen’s Jubilee celebration? If Gilbert had a strength it was that he was always topical.
(The Savoy Grill set goes off, curtain rises to Yeomen set)
The Yeomen of the Guard:
The screw may twist and the rack may turn,
CHORUS (from off-stage):
The screw may twist and the rack may turn,
CHORUS (from off-stage):
(Curtain falls as Savoy Grill set comes on)
Shaw The whole company was making so much money at this time. Even Barrington decided to leave and try his hand at theatre management.
Carte It was short-lived, he was soon back at the Savoy!
Shaw I was surprised that you chose not to acquire the Carl Rosa Company when it came up for sale?
Carte It was a good proposition he wanted just £88,000 and the contract would include his staying on as the managing director for five years at £1,500 a year. Sullivan was in Naples at the time, I wrote several times and he eventually replied in the negative. I did not feel I should proceed without him.
Wilde You didn’t approach Gilbert?
Carte I did not judge it as appropriate.
Wilde You were clearly becoming ever closer to Sullivan?
Carte He was the more sympathetic individual. I appointed him as my best man when I married Helen. He and Fanny Rolands would thereafter often socialize with Helen and me. Sullivan joined my hotel board, Fanny Rolands sold shares in the hotel on a commission – one share for every ten she sold. Besides Gilbert would just have huffed and puffed about anything that was not to his personal advantage. Besides at the time he was planning to build his own theatre, The Garrick.
Shaw The Ripper’s double murder took place just days before you opened ‘Yeomen’, did this have any impact on audiences?
Carte It did not help, it was the buzz throughout London. Of course, we took care that the females of the Company were properly accompanied home from the theatre.
Shaw In fact Gilbert had long been known for taking care about the female members’ safety.
Carte Yes, he often paid for cabs when rehearsals ran late.
Wilde Did he not also pursue some young nobleman who had the audacity to break off his engagement to May Fortescue.
Carte Yes, his solicitors pursued the case on her behalf. It was something of an echo of ‘Trial by Jury’. She was awarded £10,000 and with the proceeds promptly acquired a theatre company that regularly included works by Gilbert.
Wilde So he was not simply a puffed-up martinet?
Carte He could have his gentle and charitable side too.
(Savoy Grill set exits, curtain rises on Yeomen set.)
The Yeomen of the Guard: Is life a boon?
Is life a thorn?
(The set dims, then illuminates to the next song)
The Yeomen of the Guard: Were I thy bride
Upon thy breast
This heart of mine
And all day long
The silvery flute,
The skylark’s trill
(Curtain drops and Savoy Grill set moves in)
Carte The rehearsals for the revivals and for ‘Yeomen’ proved particularly trying. Gilbert thought nothing of undermining my position in front of others. Criticising first this actress and then another. I found it easier to set out my thoughts in writing to him, so I wrote and stated that if we were only to use handsome girls then the power of the chorus would be weakened.
Shaw But had not the agreement between you placed the selection of the cast, the stage management and properties completely in his purview?
Carte It was his tone at rehearsal, his constant carping and criticism that I objected to, I even suggested that I would rather terminate the arrangement between us at some period that will not cause any of us inconvenience.
Wilde He must have been incandescent?
Carte Strangely not so, but there was much confusion about a rehearsal for the ‘Pirates’ revival. It had been rescheduled then there was a flurry of calls between Kitty and Helen. He insisted the rehearsal would need to wait on him until 6pm because of a prior engagement.
Shaw Not unreasonable?
Carte But it would have kept everyone else waiting on him for an hour. We compromised but when he arrived he became extremely excited and accused me of being dictatorial! He said that as he and Sullivan paid everyone’s salary then they had the right to keep them waiting as long as they liked.
Shaw Were you aware that his mother lay dying at this time? Though he constantly maintained his stance of never seeing her, but he was kept closely in touch through his sisters. He would have been aware that she was approaching death, perhaps this might explain his distress?
Carte I was of course unaware of this, I could only judge on what I was seeing before me. I wrote to Sullivan saying I didn’t see how things were to go on.
Shaw Yet the ‘Pirates’ revival opened successfully.
Carte It lost something by not having Sullivan conduct the revival’s opening night.
Wilde Clearly a triumvirate needs three to function!
Carte It did not stop when Sullivan was back. He finally turned his attention to Act II of ‘Yeomen’ and realised that there were difficulties in setting the music. Gilbert was incensed for he believed that Sullivan was coming to this so very late and he felt he should have been advised of these difficulties six months’ earlier.
Shaw But Sullivan was routinely remiss in handling his work and his deadlines.
Carte That’s true, but he replied that he had only received Act II in June and had spent three weeks trying to overcome the issues, now he had to conclude he could not set the piece as it was.
Wilde Yet you said earlier that Gilbert had supplied alternative lyrics, hummed Sullivan the sea shanty and had done everything to assist?
Carte Yes, but now he was annoyed by the lateness and the scale of the additional changes being requested, he suggested he was being asked to execute a full reconstruction; he had little choice but to comply.
It made for a grumpy final dress rehearsal and on the morning of the opening Gilbert wrote to Sullivan with a series of changes including the excision of half the couplets in the Finale. He commented that he was not cutting any of Sullivan’s music, just the repeats of it, and that of course he was cutting his own words through the same decision.
(curtain rises on Yeomen set)
The Yeomen of the Guard – FINALE
(Looks up and recognizes Fairfax.)
ELSIE AND FAIRFAX:
(Enter JACK POINT)
(Fairfax embraces Elsie as Point falls insensible at their feet. Curtain drops)
(The two office sets come on – Gilb at one Sull at the other)
Gilb (On the phone to Sullivan he shouts down it.) Congratulations. ‘Yeomen’ is now open in London, New York and Manchester. I think ‘Yeomen’ is the best among our operas, but perhaps it is just about as serious as I would ever care to get.
Sull I was particularly proud of the overture, it could be played at any symphony concert and be a credit to it. But I was horrified when the audience chatted and fumbled about all the way through it. I shall never take the trouble to write another, I shall have others score a medley of the tunes instead.
Gilb I understand that George Throne, playing Jack Point, has elaborated and portrays his character as dying at the end of the piece. Intriguing! Normally I would be calling for him to return strictly to the libretto, but I am inclined to allow this to pass.
Sull But this does present a problem at the curtain call, is he then magically resurrected, perhaps some lozenge would be in order?
Gilb (Ignores this) I am rushing together an updated ‘Brantinghame Hall’ for dear old Barrington, whose first play as the manager of the St James’s has failed. There are some good comedy scenes for Barrington and his brother to make the whole a success. In fact the Cartes have offered to place the piece in New York.
Sull Congratulations and the very best of luck. I have been clearing my commitments by turning down a request for a new piece for the Leeds Festival, yet have taken a commission from Henry Irving to write the incidental music for ‘the Scottish play’ at the Lyceum.
Gilb I wish you good providence for this. Until our meeting on the 9th, Adieu. (He hangs up the phone and takes up a pen)
Dear Carte. My wife was at the Savoy yesterday and saw a good deal to object to in the business of the trio, ‘A man who would woo a fair maid’, in Act II. She says that Ulmar and Bond go a great deal too far in pinching and tickling Grossmith, tweaking his nose and pinching him about. Now whatever they do should be done neatly and delicately, and not overdone. I wish you would look at this some night and judge for yourself.
(Lights go down, come up with Sull in a change of outfit)
Sull (Pulls out his diary and records) 8th January 1889. Explained to Gilbert my view as to the future, viz, that I wanted to do some dramatic work on a larger musical scale and that of course I should like to do it with him if he would, but that the music must occupy a more important position than in our other pieces – that I wished to get rid of the strongly marked rhythms and rhymed couplets, (pauses for thought) and have words which give a chance to developing musical effects. I mentioned also that I wanted a voice in the musical construction of the libretto. He seemed quite to assent to all of this.
(Sull’s office set moves off and garden set moves in)
Gilb (Writing) Are you enjoying your holiday in France? I am disturbed to report that the newspapers appear to be obsessed with your gambling at present.
Sull (In garden set with casual clothing) What is being written about me is untrue rubbish. I did one day have five Louis on zero and it came up, but that has been my most distinguished feat.
(Takes out his diary and writes) 19th February – lost 3,000 francs, drew out more cash from the bank and won 11,000.
Gilb (Writing) Following your letter I would express that I am sympathetic with your desire to write a grand opera, but such an opera will require a much more powerful singing and acting company than we have at the Savoy. I fear that a grand opera would not give me a chance of doing what I do best, the librettist is always swamped by the composer. We have a name, jointly, for humorous work, tempered with occasional glimpses of earnest drama. I think we should do unwisely if we left, altogether, the path which we have trodden together so long and so successfully.
Are the two things irreconcilable? As to leaving the Savoy, I can only say that I should do this with the profoundest reluctance and regret. I don’t believe in Carte’s new theatre, the site is not popular, and cannot become popular for some years to come. Our names are known all over the world in connection with the Savoy and I feel convinced that it would be madness to sever the connections with that theatre.
If you wish to write a grand opera , can I commend you to Julian Sturgis as the best librettist of the day. A work by me would be, deservedly or otherwise, generally pooh-poohed.
Sull (Writing) I had hoped that ‘Yeomen’ was the beginning of more serious and romantic character. I cannot go back for I have lost the liking for writing comic opera. It has become distasteful writing for the usual stock characters such as the middle-aged woman with fading charms.
Your comment needing to sacrifice yourself as a librettist in a grand opera, this is just what I have been doing in all our joint pieces, and, what is more, must continue to do in comic opera to make it successful. I want to do a work where the music is the first consideration, where words are to suggest music, not govern it.
Your thoughts about leaving the Savoy? By September few of the old Savoy company would be left. Grossmith goes, Barrington has gone, Temple wants to go and Miss Ulmar must go, we can’t keep her on. Consequently there will remain Jessie, Brandam, Pounds and Denny, two of whom are admirable for comic opera, the other two stronger vocally than histrionically.
I seek a modus vivendi, we seem to be at an impasse and unless you can solve the difficulty I don’t see my way out of it.
Gilb (Writing) Your letter has filled me with amazement and regret. If you have been effacing yourself for the last twelve years and desire to write an opera in which the music shall be the first consideration, by which I understand an opera in which the libretto, and consequently the librettist, must occupy a subordinate place, then there can be no modus vivendi. You are an adept in your profession and I am an adept in mine, if we meet it must be as master and master, not as master and servant.
Sull (Sat preparing to write) If I address this to dear Carte, then D’Oyly will appreciate that this is intended for Gilbert’s eyes.
(He writes) Dear Carte, Gilbert has replied to my letter with a few lines of huffy resentment at one or two of my sentences, if he is not to consider my thoughts in the round then I regret that there is nothing further I can do to settle the issue.
I cordially agree with one of his comments, if we meet it must be as master and master, not as master and servant. If that were only the case unnecessary friction would be avoided. Excepting during the voice rehearsals, and the two orchestral rehearsals I am a cipher in the theatre once the stage rehearsals begin and Gilbert is supreme until the fall of the curtain of the last rehearsal.
The music has always had to give way to the words and the business. In nothing else is my opinion allowed to have weight in dresses, scenery, make up or lighting. They are all Gilbert’s pieces with music added by me, I am tired of the process and unless we can change this method of working then I would rather give it up altogether.
I write to you because I hate quarrelling with old friends and I should certainly say something unfortunate if I wrote to Gilbert.
Gilb (Writing) Dear Carte, I return Sullivan’s letter. I needn’t tell you that it is most monstrous, and unfair, and unjust, and false in every detail. Will you and Mrs Carte dine with us tomorrow at eight. We can then discuss the future of the theatre at our leisure. It is of course impossible that I can ever write to Sullivan again.
Sull (Takes out diary) 27th March – Three letters from D’Oyly. He describes that the ‘Yeomen’ receipts were down over Lent and it cannot survive until the new theatre is ready. Without its income he will not be able to keep the Savoy and further will not have the funds for the new theatre. He requires a new comic opera and suggests that it is for me to break this impasse.
(Takes up paper and writes) Dear Gilbert, I ask for just three things. First, that my judgement and opinion should have some weight in the musical situation. (Ponders) Second, that I should have a more important share in arranging the attitudes and business in all the musical portions. Third, that the rehearsals should be arranged in such a way as not to weary the voices and cause everyone to sing carelessly and without any regard for tune, time or accent.
If you accept all this in the same spirit in which I write, we can go on smoothly as if nothing has happened and I hope successfully. If not I shall regret it deeply, but in any case, you will hear no more recriminations on my part.
Gilb (Writing) The requirements contained in your letter are just and reasonable in every way. I agree to your first point, but do challenge you to name an instance when it was not already the case in our work together. As to your third point, how am I to know you object unless you tell me so? I suggest that the acting and singing rehearsals be taken separately until the last week.
Turning to your second point, you are not present at more than one rehearsal in six during the first fortnight when the business has to be arranged.
If your letter stood alone there would be nothing to prevent our embarking at once, in a cheerful and friendly spirit, upon the work which (subject to your approval) I have been constructing in the last ten days. But unhappily the letter does not stand alone. It was preceded by a letter to Carte (avowedly written that its contents might be communicated to me) which teems with unreasonable demands and utterly groundless communications.
You say that our operas are Gilbert’s pieces with music added by you. You deliberately assert that for twelve years you, incomparably the greatest English musician of the age, a man whose genius is a proverb wherever the English language is spoken, have submitted silently and uncomplainingly for twelve years to be extinguished, ignored, set aside, rebuffed and generally effaced by your librettist, you grievously reflect, not upon him, but upon yourself and the noble art of which you are so eminent a professor.
Sull (Writing) Dear Gilbert, 24th April. I have met with Carte, we travelled back from Paris together in the company of his sons and your nephew. We both agreed to write to you at once. He has given me the opportunity of producing an opera on a large scale and thus realise the great desire of my life. He has promised that his new theatre will be solely used for this purpose.
I am writing to say that I am prepared to set to work at once upon a light or comic opera with you, provided of course that we have thoroughly agreed about the subject, and to think no more of our rather sharp discussion. How does this fit with your arrangements?
Gilb (Reading a letter from Carte, in fact Carte reads this aloud from off stage) I enclose my letter of 24th April and would advise that Sullivan is prepared to write another comic opera for the Savoy on the old lines, if you are willing. As an inducement to him I have agreed that his ‘Grand Opera’ shall be produced by my new theatre later on. I think this is not a bad arrangement. I think too that he really likes to keep up the collaboration which has existed for so many years, as I need not say I do.
Gilb (Writing) Dear Carte, I am still feeling hurt by Sullivan’s comments, despite the regrets you advise he now holds for his actions. However I have an idea for a piece connected with Venice and Venetian life, which should hold out the promise of writing bright music.
Sull (Writing in his diary) 8th May 1889 – Shook hands and buried the hatchet. Will invite the Gilberts to join my birthday celebrations next week. (spotlight dims)
Sull (Writing in his diary) 8th June 1889 – Gilbert came to Queen’s Mansions and read his sketch plot. Bright, interesting, funny and very pretty.
(Office sets move off, curtain rises to Gondoliers set)
The Gondoliers: When a merry maiden marries
(Curtain drops and 1894 – Savoy Grill set moves in)
Shaw So, once again, it was Sullivan that initiated the dialogue, took them to the brink of ceasing any future collaboration, but then seems to have completely stepped away from his stated beliefs?
Carte But this time he had more purpose – the opportunity to produce his grand opera for my Royal English Opera House.
Shaw It opened in 1891?
Carte Yes, eventually! It took him a long nine months to complete ‘Ivanhoe’ and we failed to agree on the business arrangements, I had proposed first a share arrangement which he said was ‘unworkable’, then as the expenses kept rising with the delays I proposed a sliding scale based upon receipts. Finally I postulated a percentage which he eventually agreed.
Wilde We artists seldom give priority to mere business matters, for us it is all about the Art.
Carte But Helen was distraught at the expenses that mounted up during these delays. We discussed at length whether he would personally contribute to the cost of delaying the opening of the theatre. He was adamant that I should not open some other’s work. We finally agreed that he would meet half of the delay costs, to be paid back weekly from his percentage. The atmosphere between us became very tense as a result.
Shaw Poor Sullivan, he had you pressing to settle the business deal on ‘Ivanhoe’, then live through the infamous ‘carpet quarrel’ all while he was expected to compose his life’s most important piece!
Carte Poor Sullivan! I was very ill through this period. It did not help that at the same time my elder son, Lucas, contracted typhoid while he was up at Oxford.
Shaw I believe all three of you became unwell at the time. Gilbert’s gout was so bad that he started calling his right foot Labouchere, after his most troublesome critic, the editor of ‘Truth’. His left he called Clement Scott, the critic of the ‘Daily Telegraph’, less tiresome but nonetheless irritating. Even in pain his humour did not desert him. He said he took great delight in cramming ‘Labouchere’ into a boot which was too small for ‘him’.
Wilde Sullivan called his kidney stones, the ‘excruciating quarry’.
Carte We opened ‘Ivanhoe’ at the end of January 1891, in the presence of the Princess of Wales, the Duke and Duchess of Edinburgh, other royals and the cream of London society. It ran for 155 performances; a record for a grand opera; we ran it a handful of additional times thereafter.
Wilde And the only memorable number proved to be ‘Ho Jolly Jenkin’ the one song in the piece that could as well have been in one of his collaborative comic operas with Gilbert!
Shaw Gilbert did not attend the opening and reportedly could not contain his delight at the news that the piece was not an overwhelming success?
Carte He did refuse Sullivan’s invitation to the opening, but he attended a few weeks in to its run and wrote to Helen to say that while he is unable to appreciate high-class music, and had expected to be bored, it turned out that he was not. He said this his is the highest compliment I have ever paid to grand opera.
Shaw I understand your opera house only showed that one work?
Carte We had two companies present it on alternate nights, but when it closed in July I had nothing to follow it. If I had managed to source further grand opera then I could have established it as the home of English grand opera, just as the Savoy had achieved with comic opera.
Shaw The greatest irony came when the Queen issued a royal command performance to be held at Windsor in her presence in spring 1891. This was a great honour, the first theatrical entertainment to take place at Windsor since the death of Prince Albert thirty years earlier. Irony, because she selected ‘Gondoliers’ not ‘Ivanhoe’; when she had once urged Sullivan to produce his grand opera. Everyone is a critic! Laudable works are one thing, entertainment quite another!
Carte I recall that you were none too kind when writing about it for the ‘World’.
Shaw I merely said that the piece comprised of ‘gentlemanly music’. I reserved my harshest criticism for the advance publicity that you put out heralding him as the ‘English Mozart’. I suggested that it does not do to spread butter on both sides of the bread.
Carte (Smiling) Hurtful, but of course the very purpose of publicity demands hyperbole.
Wilde Eventually you leased the theatre to Sarah Bernhardt for a while?
Carte Yes, but eventually I had to sell it on at a loss. Charles Morton, who earned his reputation in music halls, was persuaded to come out of retirement, re-opening it as the Palace Theatre of Varieties. I have to admit that its programme of variety theatre does seem to have maintained reasonable profits.
Shaw Returning our attention to Gilbert and Sullivan. This first rapprochement between the two was five years ago and everything was resolved culminating in their collaboration on ‘Gondoliers’. Was this without any umbrage on either side?
Carte It did seem so. At the beginning of that summer Sullivan rented a house in Weybridge and moved Fanny Rolands in with him so that he could settle down to quite a backlog of work. First he had the work for Leeds Festival to complete. Then he met and agreed the way forward with Julian Sturgis. Sturgis was to proceed and prepare the grand opera libretto for ‘Ivanhoe’, while Sullivan would concentrate on composing the music for ‘Gondoliers’.
Wilde Presumably you were preoccupied with getting this hotel opened?
Carte We opened in the August of 1889, but held a house-warming supper here for over 200 guests at the end of July. Of course Sullivan as a shareholder and director attended, so did Gilbert and Kitty.
Wilde Was the supper prepared by Escoffier?
Carte No, I did not hire César Ritz until the following year. It was he that brought Auguste Escoffier and Louis Echenard with him. They had become a powerful team, César as general manager, Auguste as the chef and restaurateur and Louis as the maître d’hôtel.
Wilde Escoffier’s invention of Pêche Melba last year, in honour of Nellie Melba, has become a firm favourite of Bosie’s and mine.
Carte There is little doubt in my mind that the author and composer had entered in to a much more cooperative phase of their relationship on ‘Gondoliers’ and it paid many dividends in the finished work.
Shaw I believe the squabbling during ‘Gondoliers’ rather spoiled things for me. Personally, I was more appreciative of their work released last year. I really liked the score of ‘Utopia’, more than that of any of the previous Savoy operas, the orchestral work was so charmingly humorous. By that of course I did not mean any buffooneries with bassoon or piccolo.
(Savoy set moves off, curtain rises on Gondoliers set.)
(Curtain falls, two office sets come on with Sullivan and Gilbert sat at their desks)
Sull (Writing) Dear Gilbert, 15th July 1889 – I am writing to advise that I have completed the opening chorus ‘List and learn, ye dainty roses’ and Antonio’s song ‘For the merriest fellows are we, tra-la’. I enclose some thoughts that I have had on the progress of the piece.
Gilb (Writing) I have produced further lyrics for Act 1 while making additions, improvements and changes as you have suggested. I enclose another verse for ‘Thank you, Gallant Gondoliers’ and an expostulatory song for either of the girls, when the Grand Inquisitor informs them that they must be separated from their husbands. Plus, I enclose a farewell duet for Tessa and Gianetta to their husbands. I hope you like the numbers?
Sull (Writing) I am progressing well with the work, but I believe that we should cut the ‘growling chorus’.
Gilb (Writing) The Venetians of the 15th century were red hot Republicans who would object to one of them being made king. The story will be unintelligible without this chorus.
Sull (Writing) I am delighted that you agreed with me and dropped that chorus, I feel that your replacement, ‘Rising early in the morning’ is more in keeping with the joyful mood of the opera. (He ponders aloud but does not write) I know full well that your pieces only have the appearance of realism and actually take place in some timeless unreal place. (He begins to write again) The piece now being located in the 18th century does feel more appropriate.
Gilb (Writing) I enclose the Grand Inquisitor’s piece ‘Do not give way to this uncalled for grief’. This can be expressed in dialogue if thought advisable.
Sull (Writing) I have set this to music.
Gilb (Writing) I fear that Giannetta’s song, ‘Kind Sir, you cannot have the heart’, is too long for the situation. I have come across a song I wrote for the same situation, if you don’t like it as well as the other, tear it up.
Sull I much prefer ‘Kind Sir’. I believe that ‘Then one of us will be a Queen’ is much better as a quartet. ‘With Ducal pomp and Ducal pride’ I think may come out, it seems in the way and too much like the entrance n the first Act.
Gilb I accept your other comments but must insist that ‘Ducal pomp…’ remain. As you may be aware I have had to take legal action to protect my ‘Les Brigands’. I wrote this twenty years ago and it has opened in Plymouth with plans to transfer to the Avenue Theatre, without first gaining my approval. In the event I have lost my injunction against these brigands. But I have interpolated a piece from that show, which I enclose as ‘In a contemplative fashion’.
Sull I like the ‘contemplative fashion’ lyrics very much but enclose a few small alterations I would propose. I believe that the chorus should be sung at the same time as the verses. It would be valuable therefore if you could provide new lines for the second half of this number so we do not repeat ourselves.
Gilb I was embarrassed to ask you to send me back the original but I had failed to keep a copy. Will this do? Its dactylic but it is difficult to get the contrast you want without dactyls. I do wonder if the original flowing meter lends itself better to the volubility of two angry girls. Just as you like, here it is in both forms.
Sull I do need the monotony of the dactylic meter broken up and enclose some suggestions.
(Office sets move off and curtain opens to ‘Gondoliers ‘set)
The Gondoliers: In a contemplative fashion
Let us grasp the situation,
Others: In a contemplative fashion, etc (while…)
Others: Let us grasp the situation, etc. (while…)
Others: In a contemplative fashion, etc. (while…)
Others: Let us grasp the situation, etc (while…)
GIU: He whom that young lady married,
GIA: (to Tess):
TESS (to Gia):
GIA (to Tess):
(Curtain closes, two office sets move in)
Sull (Writing in diary) Gilbert and I got a tremendous ovation – we never had such an enthusiastic house and such a brilliant first night
Gilb (Writing) Dear Sullivan, I must say again thank you for the magnificent work you have put into the piece. It gives one a chance of shining right through the twentieth century with a reflected light.
Sull (Writing) Dear Gilbert, Don’t talk of reflected light. In such a perfect book as ‘The Gondoliers’ you shine with an individual brilliancy which no other writer can hope to attain.
Gilb (Phones Sullivan) Have you seen our reviews? I just had to call you. Let me read you the Sunday Times piece – “‘In a contemplative fashion’ is the cleverest thing that the composer has accomplished. A verdict of emphatic and unanimous approval was passed last night by a brilliant house upon Mr W S Gilbert and Sir Arthur Sullivan’s new comic opera… That verdict was never for a moment in doubt. From the time the curtain rose there reigned in the Savoy Theatre but one steady undisturbed atmosphere of contentment – contentment with the music, the dances, the piece, the scenery, the dresses and not the least with the talented and loyal members of Mr D’Oyly Carte’s company.”
Sull (On phone) Chappell & Co tell me that they had twelve men packing copies of the score from morning to night. Some eleven wagon loads were despatched, 20,000 copies despatched that first day and the printing machines are still going full speed ahead.
Were you in the theatre when they called for an encore of ‘A Right Down Regular Royal Queen’? I set out to encore just the last part but the audience cried out ‘All of it’. A request I happily granted.
Gilb (On phone) It’s therefore the perfect time for Kitty and I to set off at the end of this month, we are visiting India for perhaps three months. What plans have you?
Sull (On phone) Carte has asked that I accompany him and Helen for the launch of ‘Gondoliers’ in New York in the New Year. They were concerned that ‘Yeomen’ had turned out wrongly because we did not send out our own company. She assures us that she has planned the new show meticulously. So I think that I might instead take Fanny and her mother to Monte Carlo. So bon voyage!
Gilb (On phone) I will keep in touch with matters and be back at the end of March. Once more many congratulations on our joint success. It is such a pleasure to work with you.
(The office sets go off, MARCO enters to stand before the curtain)
The Gondoliers: Take a pair of sparkling eyes
(MARCO exits, the curtain rises on Carte’s office at the centre of stage with the two office sets, Gilbert’s and Sullivan’s, still in place at each side but not illuminated. In the Carte office CAlto is sat as Helen Carte at one desk, Carte at the other, there are chairs for visitors, the walls are adorned with posters and past programmes of G&S shows.)
Helen Despite our determined efforts while in America the run there came to nothing. Their papers are very maliciously referring to ’The Gondoliers’ as the ‘Gone-dollars’. I therefore wonder if we should be taking Gilbert’s letter from India more seriously. He had seen that the ‘Mikado’ and ‘Trial by Jury’ were being played in Calcutta, and learned their pieces are continually being played there. He suggested we should have an agent to protect our interests. Should I look in to this?
Carte He has been back several weeks without mentioning it further. The touring repertory company is proving a great success. Besides, we have rather more pressing matters.
Helen He contacted me while you were out of the office and seemed in good spirits. He asked me to supply him with preliminary accounts. I should have mentioned to you earlier that I sent him what I had to hand.
Carte I wish you had spoken with me first. You are aware that he harbours doubts about my management of their works. He seems to be convinced that I have built the Savoy Theatre and Hotel and the new theatre from the fruits of their labour. He has no idea!
(Gilbert enters clearly in a fit of rage)
Gilb Just what is it that you are running here, Messrs Barnum & Bailey’s circus?
Carte And a good day to you, Gilbert. Allow me to give our condolences at the loss of your father, as the ‘Daily News’ commented, he was an author of marked originality, he will be much missed.
Gilb (He is mollified) Thank you. (But recovers his anger quickly) Be that as it may, I see you have allowed the carpenters and others to overcharge for their services, I really cannot comprehend £4,500 expended on the ‘Gondoliers’’ preliminary expenses. The fact that this includes the sum of £500 for new carpets for the front of house is unacceptable, we are only responsible for repairs incidental to the performances.
Carte (Looks at Helen in admonishment) These are preliminary accounts and I don’t believe you are interpreting them correctly.
Gilb Balderdash, we are being robbed, the agreement is clear that Sullivan and I are liable for repairsincidental to the performances. Replacementof the carpets in the lobbies and staircases cannot be considered in any manner as incidental to the performances.
Carte You share responsibility as tenants for the upholstery in front.
Gilb If we are jointly responsible why then are we not consulted over any major expenditure?
Carte I refuse to reconsider the accounts before they are properly prepared.
Gilb Then I call for a fresh agreement to be drawn up between us. You’re making too much money out of my brains.
Carte Very well in that case we would make the rent reflect the market more accurately at £5,000, instead of £4,000.
Gilb Then you will have to find a new author for the Savoy.
Carte That might be practicable.
Gilb Be careful that you do not kick down the ladder by which you have risen.
Carte I refuse to discuss this further. If you are dissatisfied with the existing state of things you should go and talk with Sullivan.
(Gilbert storms out)
Helen (Seeing Carte is much affected) He was not his normal self, but there is no excuse to treat you like an offending menial.
(Carte’s office dims)
(The players, dressed in a variety of the opera costume, enter one by one walking slowly to their positions – the CHORUS gathers at the rear of Carte’s office; Bar, BBar and Tenor stand beside Gilb’s office; Sopr and MzSopr behind Sull’s)
ALL (As they enter they sing somberly) Tarantara, Tarantara (etc) (until all are assembled)
(Gilbert’s office is lit, he bustles in and sits straight down at his desk to write)
Gilb (Writing to Sull) Dear Sullivan, 22nd April – I’ve had a difficulty with Carte. I was appalled to learn from him that the preliminary expenses fro Gondoliers amounted to the stupendous sum of £4,500!!! This seemed so utterly unaccountable that I asked to see the details and last night I received a resume of them.
This includes such trifles as £75 for Miss Moore’s second dress, £50 for her first dress – £100 for Miss Brandam’s second dress costing £100 (this costly garment has now, for some occult reason, been sent on tour).£450 for the wages of the carpenters during the time they were engaged on the scenery: £460 for the gondola, the sailing boat, the two columns and two chairs and fountain for Act 2: £112 for timber, £120 for ironmongery, £95 for canvas – and so forth.
But the most surprising item was £500 for new carpets for the front of house. Our agreement did not say anything about replacing items but mentions only repairs incidental to the performance.
I expect that you will share my opinion that a distinct understanding should be arrived at if we are to work with Carte again.
Sull (Writing) My Dear Gilbert – 23rd April – I can scarcely tell you how much I regret that any heated personalities should have entered in to the discussion about the accounts, and I hope that all unpleasantness will soon be removed.
With reference to the charge for renewals and repairs, I am not prepared, without further examination, to give a decided opinion, and I shall go into the matter at once, comparing accounts with the agreement, and bearing in mind what the custom has been.
I certainly agree with you that the stage preliminaries are appallingly high, but with this I cannot well or with good grace take exception, as you yourself control these expenses. Ordering dresses, scenery, properties etc – which I have always (with one notable exception) acquiesced in as a matter of course. You are an expert in these matters, and I naturally leave everything in your hands.
I think we are charged abnormally high for our stuffs, silk, lace, etc – but it seems impossible to get a price or an estimate beforehand and when things are in train, the production near, and time of the greatest importance, we are, to use your phrase, entirely in these, entirely in these people’s hands: and I really don’t see how it is to be otherwise if our pieces continue to be put upon the stage with the same perfection of details that has characterized all of or joint works. Let us talk the matter over.
(Writing in diary) 26th April – Long interview between Gilbert and myself. He gave me an account of the interview between Carte and himself, showing that he had been treated very unceremoniously, arrogantly and insolently by Carte.
I could not agree with him on some of the disputed points about which the quarrel arose, such as the question of the renewal of worn-out carpets, and the responsibility for the preliminary stage expenses, but undertook to point out to Carte the impropriety of the words ascribed to him by Gilbert.
I undertook to arrange a meeting at my house between Gilbert, Carte and myself for calm deliberation of the matters. I proposed that it should stand over for a week, as I was anxious to go out of town (to Newmarket for the races), and the delay would tend to smooth matters.
Carte (Dictating to Helen) Dear Gilbert, I am writing to dispute the accuracy of your statements in several letters you have sent to Sullivan, which he has shown to me. The preliminary expenses are enormously and unnecessarily high, but you are responsible for these. I was advised that the costumes and sets had not definitely been settled by you as this or that, consequently no estimate could be given. I had therefore accepted this situation to avoid any controversy.
I pass by the observation in your letter that the cost of restoring the carpets is £500, which sum I see you have reduced to £330 in your latest letter, the actual amount being £140 odd, merely remarking that this is a fair sample of the general inaccuracy of your letters, due no doubt to your not having properly examined the accounts.
As for Rosina’s costumes you were perfectly aware that these costumes had been sent on tour because Miss Brandram had resigned her engagement in London on medical grounds yet was still able to tour in the country.
In one of your letters you claim that I said you write no more for the Savoy, when it was you who said I would need to find another author for the Savoy.
I have devoted the greater portion of my time and energies during the best years of my life to the management of the theatre in London and the tours in the country and abroad. And so far, everyone had been satisfied with that management.
If you do not know, or have forgotten what I have done, the first passer-by in the street could probably tell you!
Sull (Writing in his diary) 27th April Gilbert came to see me in the morning, and brought with him a paper containing the heads of a new agreement to be made between us three. These he read to me and left the paper with me for consideration. He also brought Carte’s letter to him, I asked him to leave the letter with me, so that I might if necessary refer to it in my discussion with Carte.
I again proposed to delay taking any active steps for a week as I was compelled to point out to Gilbert that I had noticed considerable irritability on Carte’s part and that I had rather keep away from him for a few days so that we could all meet in a more tranquil frame of mind. Gilbert agreed with me, and giving me the impression that the breach should not be widened but, on the contrary, that our mutual relations should be placed our former amicable footing.
Gilb (Writing) 3rd May – Dear Helen, I am writing to seek greater clarification of the preliminary expenses and enclose some questions I should like you to address.
(Takes up a new sheet) 3rd May – Dear Sullivan, I would ask that you arrange an appointment with Carte to discuss the new agreement and a way to restore good relations with Carte, provided that there is no possibility of Carte repeating his insult.
Sull (Writing in his diary) 3rd May – I wrote to Gilbert today and kept a copy of it. I cordially agreed with him that it would be better to have a new agreement which should be so drawn up to obviate the possibility of any dispute as to the construction to be put upon it. But I thought it might be better to let that stand over until the necessity or desirability of writing a new piece for the Savoy Theatre should arrive – that in consequence of the great success of ‘Gondoliers’ this contingency would not be likely to happen for some months.
I pointed out that even if we had a new agreement it could not act retrospectively and therefore it was in every way desirable to settle the disputed points in the old agreement first. I also added that I had so much anxious work on hand at present that I was not in the position to give the time and thought to the discussion and preparation of a new agreement.
Carte (Writing) 5th May – Dear Sullivan, I have considered your suggestion of a meeting between the three of us, and waited for a week to see if some opening would occur. But Gilbert’s two recent letters to Helen shows he is still much of the same mind. Reflecting on the insulting remarks that Gilbert made to me at Beaufort House, I cannot in all conscience meet with Gilbert as though nothing has happened between us.
Loosely takem from Pirates of Penzance:
BBar: His feelings he with difficulty smothers –
Gilb 5th May – Carte, I am writing formally to give notice that from and after Christmas 1890 I revoke your licence to produce my libretti. Further, that from and after the withdrawal of ‘Gondoliers’ I revoke your licence to produce and perform such libretti in London.
(Takes up a new sheet) Dear Sullivan, I enclose my letter to Carte. I inform you that the time has arrived to end our collaboration, and after the withdrawal of ‘Gondoliers’ our united work will be heard in public no more.
Carte (Dictating to Helen) Gilbert. I would remind you that our agreement for the provinces expires at Christmas 1891, perhaps you made a clerical error in stating this as 1890? The agreement is binding on all parties. The London agreement ended with ‘Gondoliers’ already, so your letter of notice therefore seems to have been unnecessary.
Sull (Writing in diary) Felt ill all day. Received letter from Gilbert to break off finally our collaboration. Nothing would induce me to write again with him. How have I stood him so long I can’t understand.
Gilb (Writing) Sullivan. I am shocked that you have shown me such marked discourtesy, and a constant hostility, veiled or otherwise. You have shown a contemptuous indifference to my requests to resolve our current difficulties with Carte, in fact displaying a placidity in tolerating insults inflicted on me.
Sull (Writing) Gilbert. The tone of your letter fills me with surprise and indignation, and leaves me no alternative but to acquiesce in the decision you have come to. It is clearly impossible for you to work any more with one who, as you state, display toward you ‘marked discourtesy’, ‘consistent hostility’, ‘contemptuous indifference’..
You have twice asked me to meet you to discuss new agreement. I certainly declined – not to meet you – but to consider e new agreement whilst the present one was still under dispute. The moment was most inopportune.
Mr and Mrs Carte utterly and emphatically deny his having used the words you claim and adhere to the statement in his letter to you. As I had of course perfect faith in the integrity of all concerned in this lamentable matter, I did all I could to try and discover a misunderstanding, or an error of memory somewhere, so that I might reconcile and explain these conflicting statements.
But before I could get very far in my efforts to heal the breach, a task you will remember you entrusted to me, you interfered. And your imperious will receiving a check, by my firm determination to settle one question before entering upon another, you have now taken a step that has caused me the deepest pain, but which under the existing circumstance I do not feel justified in attempting to induce you to reconsider.
Carte (Writing) 7th May – Dear Sullivan. I enclose copies of Gilbert’s official letter of resignation and my formal reply. I think you will see that a meeting would have been of no use. Could you please let me have any letters that Gilbert sent you bearing on the recent affair, with a copy of his letter to you on 23rd April, so that I may see whether there is anything in them affecting me?
Gilb (Writing) Carte. Please send me a copy of our agreement.
(He opens a letter) Ah, Carte hides behind Helen I see! (reads it aloud). I write to enclose my account of the Beaufort House meeting. I agree with Sullivan and D’Oyly that the preliminary expenses were your responsibility. As to the front of house matter, D’Oyly paid for the furniture and carpet of the Savoy Theatre when it was opened. Since then the theatre has been kept spick and span by redecoration and repairs, expenses that all three of you shared.
(Takes up a new sheet) Dear Sullivan. I am in receipt of a letter from Helen D’Oyly Carte and have no choice but to instruct my solicitor, Bolton. My earlier letter was written because you have declined to comment on my relations with Carte, you have declined a meeting to discuss a new agreement, allowing months to pass before a new piece is needed. You do not seem to be prepared to give time to Savoy matters, giving yourself entirely to the grand opera. As to your comment about my ‘imperious will’, it was I who was insulted by Carte and therefore it is for me to say on what terms I would continue our association.
Sull (Writing) Gilbert. I have no intention of continuing a correspondence which can result in no practical good.
Gilb (Writing) 13th May – Dear Bolton. Thank Carte’s solicitor, Stanley, for his offer to provide accounts up to the 4th April, but please reply by asking for the accounts back until 25th November 1882, the date of the opening of Iolanthe, the first of our works written exclusively for the Savoy Theatre.
Loosely from Pirates of Penzance – I am the very essence of an author for the theatres
Carte (Speaking to Helen), The London Star has captured it well, ‘Sir Arthur did not want to quarrel with Mr Carte or anyone else. He declined to quarrel with Mr Carte. Consequently he got into a quarrel with Mr Gilbert.’ This piece is harmless but the news of our quarrel will attract other less helpful observations.
Gilb (Takes up a new sheet) Sullivan. Now the nature of the man is revealed in the ‘New York Times’ article. It states completely inaccurately that Carte claims you and I met in the theatre to balance the accounts and that I called you both blackguards. It goes on to say that I wrote a letter to you in which I expressed disgust at his ungentlemanly conduct. You know both are completely without veracity.
Carte (Writing) Dear Gilbert and Sullivan. I must write to correct the distorted picture presented by the ‘New York Times’, the article had scarcely anything correct and I will do all that I can to remedy the account, of course Gilbert would not have spoken or acted in the way reported.
Gilb (Writing) Dear Sullivan. I enclose a draft of what I propose as my statement to the ‘Sunday Times’. I propose the statement to read, ‘I have nothing to say beyond what is already known – that Sullivan having resolved to divert himself to Grand Opera – at all events for the present – has neither time nor inclination to undertake work of a lighter order. Apart from this we both think it advisable that we should stop on a marked success.
Sull (Writing) Dear Gilbert. 16th May – I have steadily refused to be interviewed or to furnish any information with reference to our break-up, intended for publication. The ways of modern journalism are to me detestable. I should therefore strongly advise you to tell Mr Salaman and others that our collaboration had ceased for reasons into which it is not necessary to enter. For, I must protest against your proposed note to him, which implies that I broke up our collaboration.
As you well know this is not the case, nor had I the faintest idea that such a thing could possibly occur, after the pleasant manner in which our last brilliant success had been carried through. You will therefore understand my amazement and indignation when I found myself unceremoniously chucked aside. You have been unjust and ungenerous to me. Therefore, I cannot be a party to letting this statement go forth.
Gilb (Writing) Mr Salaman, Sunday Times, I hope you will not think me discourteous, but Sullivan and I have agreed that the public are not concerned with the reasons that have actuated us in ceasing to collaborate. More than that I am not at liberty to say.
(Takes up a new sheet of paper) To the Editor, Pall Mall Gazette. Your 20th May edition states that the rumoured rupture at the Savoy in now an ‘admitted fact’ and supplies the reason as ‘the development of Mr Carte’s grand opera schemes’. My secession has no connection with Sullivan’s new opera, I have withdrawn from further collaboration for my own reasons. This has been done without putting an end to friendly relations which have existed between Sir Arthur Sullivan and myself for many years.
I would mention that one of Mr Sedger’s first productions at the Lyric Theatre will be a comic opera from the joint pens of Messrs W S Gilbert and Alfred Cellier.
Carte (Has a visitor in his office) I do trust that ‘The Star’ will faithfully report this interview? In summary I don’t think I am saying anything that is not perfectly well known when I say that Mr Gilbert is a very difficult man to get on with.
Yes I am aware that he has wasted little time in entering in to a new collaboration. Heaven help poor Cellier, I believe it is to be based upon Gilbert’s much vaunted ‘lozenge’ or ‘charm’ notion that Sullivan had the good sense to reject at each proposal.
The Pall Mall Gazette has reported that Gilbert is to sell Harrington Gardens and move to a new property in Harrow Weald, where they suggest he will create Topsy Turvey Palace. It is as if he is making a break from all aspects of his previous life.
Iolanthe: When you’re lying awake
For your brain is on fire – the bedclothes conspire of usual slumber to plunder you:
Then the blanketing tickles – you feel like mixed pickles – so terribly sharp is the pricking,
Carte (Dictating to Helen) 7th June. Dear Sullivan. Your grand opera ‘Ivanhoe’ is much delayed and this is causing some financial pain for me. Ideally Mrs Carte and I would have shared equally in the profits, but because of the expenses and the need of a run, the matter is complicated, so I have worked out a sliding scale arrangement that is based upon the actual receipts.
Gilb (Writing) Dear Sullivan. I have now completed with my solicitor a series of notes on the 4th April accounts which I attach for your comment. I have also asked my accountant to prepare a report which outlines ways in which we should like to see the Savoy accounts presented for the future. I would welcome your comments and support.
Sull (Writing) Gilbert. Involving your lawyer and accountant is a deplorable step. My object now is to do nothing that will add fuel to the fire, and consequently I hold entirely aloof from taking part in this unhappy dispute.
Gilb (Writing) Sullivan. My solicitor has pursued Carte and his representatives for sight of the latest 4th July accounts without success. I therefore had no choice but to have them issue a writ and to require a payment on account, if the exact sum is not known we have suggested an interim payment of £2,000 is required. We have received no reply and so have made clear that unless the £2,000 is received by the 5th August we will have no other recourse but to appoint a receiver.
Sull (Writing) Gilbert. 5th August – I am very sorry affairs are taking this turn. With regard to the last quarter’s divisions, I have asked Carte to send me an account in the usual way, and if I am satisfied with its detail, shall of course demand my share of the profits.
Gilb (Writing) Sullivan. 8th August – having heard nothing from Carte or his solicitor I have filed the affidavit that my solicitor will serve for an application for a receiver.
Princess Ida – Whene’er I spoke, Sarcastic joke
Sull (Writing) Dear Carte – I too, am now becoming concerned about the delay in receiving the quarterly payment?
Carte (Writing) Dear Sullivan – It is Gilbert who has put the matter into the hands of solicitors, I was obliged therefore to do the same, so now I must abide by my solicitor’s advice or withdraw my business from his hands. I was aggrieved to see in the content of your letter to Gilbert on the 5th August that you suggested that by a little conciliation and concessions all round affairs need never have reached this present stage. I don’t know if this implies that I ought to have made concessions or been conciliatory.
I can bear the Gilbert ‘bothers’, but if you, my friend of so long standing, with whom I have worked so long, who has advised me through this worry, for whose great work I have actually built my new theatre, if you, are not going to back me up thoroughly then it is hard and I feel disheartened for the first time and in a way that nothing else could make me.
Gilb (Writing) Sullivan – My solicitor has advised me that you and the solicitor for Carte have now sworn affidavits in the current legal case. These have much altered matters and so at tomorrow’s hearing we have no choice but to request the case to stand over for a week while we consider them. I fear the outcome will be that you must now be named as a defendant.
(Taking up and making changes to a note) That is a better statement for the affidavit. (reading aloud) 1st September – It is I who discharged all the intellectual functions of management at the Savoy, whereas the defendant Richard D’Oyly Carte has merely to attend to minor and inferior matters of organisation and routine. I have always demanded to be recognised as one of the managers of the theatre.
Carte (Writing) Dear Sullivan – My solicitor advises that I should seek any signs of a vindictive spirit or malice in Gilbert’s communications. I am therefore eager to get a copy of a letter I heard about from Gilbert to you, which I am convinced is libelous.
Sull (Writing) Dear Carte, You are aware that my approach is to do nothing to add fuel to this unfortunate fire. I am not prepared to show or provide copy of the letter to which you refer. It will only make things worse.
Loosely from Trial by Jury:
Sull (Writing in his diary) 3rd September 1890 – the court case was today it had to hear fourteen affidavits from the various parties. Carte’s solicitor stated that Mr Gilbert had become dissatisfied with some of the items in the accounts delivered in April. Until it was settled whether certain items were to be included or excluded, it was impossible to say what form the July account was to take. Instead of adopting the simple remedy of taking out a summons to have a proper account, Mr Gilbert elected to take the present harsh proceedings. There was no need for a court case at all.
Gilbert identified that the receipts for the July quarter, in dispute, were £20,000 with expenses of £11,000 meaning £9,000 should have been distributed. Carte’s counsel argued that the accounts were often several weeks delayed and that with these there were still some outstanding items to be resolved as attested by his and my affidavit.
My affidavit had said that in my judgement it would be most injurious to the interests of the parties if the conduct of the business were interfered with by the appointment of a receiver. I had not thought to mention the injury of our business accounts being made so public; an appraisal read out in court of our past accounts revealed that over the past eleven years Gilbert , and therefore I, had received £70,000 for London performances and £20,000 for those in the provinces and overseas.
It was perhaps Gilbert’s affidavit that caused the most damage. He had sworn that he believed his property was being misapplied, that the £9,000 had not been divided. Because Carte, being engaged on other speculations, had used it for purposes of his own. He added that apart from the Savoy Hotel, Carte was engaged in other large speculations.
My counsel affirmed that I had taken no part in this unfortunate quarrel and did not want to be mixed up in it. Carte’s defence then pointed out that £2,000 had already been paid and that they would pay the additional £1,000 on the day after this hearing and that the final accounts would be delivered in three weeks.
The court accepted this and decided that no receiver be appointed. All that has been achieved is a public airing of our business affairs. Gilbert received no more than he would have done. And, I have been drawn in to this apparently upon the side of Carte, not my intention, though my opera does depend on him and his theatre. Worse I was coerced into swearing an affidavit about a minor outstanding matter from 1884, of which I believe Gilbert is unaware. I feel soiled!
The ‘Musical Times’ captured my thinking commenting on our revealed income it said ‘Human nature cannot stand such prosperity without arriving at the point where it is prepared to make a casus belli out of carpet.
HMS Pinafore: The hours creep on apace
Gilb (Writing) Dear Sullivan – 6th September. I have been miserable since this affair began and would gladly end it. The notion of your being a defendant in a suit in which I am plaintiff has thoroughly upset me.
Sull (Writing) Dear Gilbert – Don’t think me exaggerating when I tell you that I am physically and mentally ill over this wretched business.
Carte (Talking to Helen in his office) I shall be very glad when the day comes, if it does come, when Gilbert and I can shake hands and forget that all this ever occurred.
Gilb (Writing) To Helen Carte, Dear Madam, 6th September – You will no doubt be surprised at receiving a letter from me, and still more surprised when you find that it is an overture of reconciliation. But we have so thoroughly understood and appreciated each other, our associations of so uniformly pleasant a character and of so many years’ standing should be exchanged for feelings of lasting antipathy and resentment. I cannot believe that, notwithstanding what has passed, you and your husband can be anxious to maintain the unhappy relations that now exist between us.
I propose that we, Sullivan, Carte, yourself and I, meet at Beaufort House without lawyers, to try to settle the differences. I suggest that we all withdraw any angry expressions which under the influence of strong irritation we may have used, and generally look upon bygones as having gone by.
Sull (Writing in his diary, says with admiration, tinged with irony) He is extraordinary!
Loosely from Iolanthe:
Sull (Taking up writing paper) Dear Gilbert, My old personal regard for you as a friend pleads very strongly to let the past five months be blotted out of our years of friendship as if they had never been lived through. But I am only human and I confess frankly that I am still smarting under a sense of unjust and ungenerous treatment I have received at your hands. If there is to be reconciliation then it must be a thorough one. I would rather believe that you acted out of anger aggravated by bad health.
Gilb (Writing) Sullivan, I regret that I allowed a sentimental recollection of our long alliance to obscure the facts of the issue. I reject outright that my action was the result of ill temper or ill health. I would remind you that I uncovered an error of £1,400 in four months’ accounts. I had no choice given Carte’s actions but to take the legal course I did, and this was quite correct in the circumstances.
Sull (Writing in his diary) 15th September – Helen has met privately with Gilbert. She seems to have put everything straight before him and not minced matters. He admitted that the facts she presented altered his view of the matter and he would not have issued the affidavit had he known of them at the time. He ought to feel thoroughly ashamed of himself but I don’t suppose he does for he asked that any friendly settlement should not be made public.
The Mikado – I’ve got a little list
Carte (In his office, writing and talking with Helen) Of course I want to settle this matter but I have been wronged by Gilbert’s insinuations. I am preparing a letter to you that sets out the various issues in an attempt to engender an equitable solution. Of course you should copy it and send it off to Gilbert.
First I suggest that, as Gilbert admitted privately to you, his affidavit had been sworn in anger and would not have been necessary had he seen all of the correspondence between the solicitors, this should be withdrawn publically.
On the matter of the accounts if Gilbert believes there are items that should not have been charged, then I have the right say certain items credited to the account, as for example programme advertisements and bar profits, should not have been credited. But I had thought that this was a fair and right thing to do, though this was not in the agreement. In the same way I thought that it was right to charge for repairs and renewals.
I object in the letter to the suggestion that they have made my fortune, I have made a splendid thing of Gilbert & Sullivan operas, but so have they, it has been a benefit all around.
Gilb (Writing) Dear Sullivan. 12th October. I have of course been completing my move into Graeme’s Dyke from Harrington Gardens, but have received various missives from Carte and from Mrs Carte. It does appear that reconciliation might be practicable. But I am writing to ask what were the legal expenses not yet brought to account that you referred to in your affidavit. I have been cudgeling my brains to discover what legal proceedings had been taken with my authority and I can honestly think of nothing but the Lilian Russell business, back in 1884.
Sull (Writing in his diary) This letter of Gilbert’s is a trap. I consulted with my solicitor, Mrs Carte was there and it was she who outlined a sketch of what I should reply to Gilbert.
Gilb (Writing) Dear Sullivan – I believe that the only outstanding expense was the insignificant sum of £46 for matters for which I had no personal responsibility. I am willing to believe that your affidavit (which, in effect, charges me with perjury) was made under an entire misconception, owing, no doubt, to deceptive representations which were made to you by persons interested in procuring your evidence. I therefore request a retraction of your affidavit in writing.
Helen (in Carte’s office, talking with Carte) I have written to Gilbert and once more set out all the events in detail to highlight the errors in Gilbert’s affidavit. I have asked that he withdraws it without casting aspersion on the solicitors on either side.
The Gondoliers – In a contemplative fashion
Let us grasp the situation,
Gilb (Writing) Dear Mrs Carte – I have taken advice and am now prepared to withdraw my questioning of the past accounts and to take Carte’s view that the repairs etc are being properly charged.
Helen (Writing) Dear Mr Gilbert – 30th October, I would assure you that anything fresh bought for the Savoy will be the property of the joint account, eventually to be sold off for your joint benefit. The celebrated carpets of last autumn do not look very fresh now. I suggest that you withdraw any legal action against D’Oyly and that an arbitrator be appointed to decide whether redecorations, repairs and renewals should be charged to the joint account, and whether the profits on advertisements and bar receipts should have been credited.
Sull (Writing) Dear Mrs Carte – I am writing to apologise for the further delays in ‘Ivanhoe’, but more specifically to question the terms of business we have agreed for it,
Helen (Writing) Dear Mr Sullivan – 5th November, I must say at once that I am sorry to have to have any sort of discussion about the main terms of that agreement, I hoped that this was all agreed and I feel that after all that has taken place it would have been better had you not wanted to go back on the arrangement you had yourself proposed and settled. On the doorstep at Weybridge, it was settled it should be the per cent approach.
There isn’t any doubt that the theatre could have been ready for April and would have been had there seemed any chance of the opera being completed. You naturally didn’t like the idea of any other musical attraction opening it. Now from what you tell us it looks like being nine months in all later than originally proposed.
There is now £90,000 invested in the theatre on which interest has to be paid, the production is turning out infinitely more expensive than contemplated and all the expenses are rising. Any profit for D’Oyly looks increasingly unlikely.
Now you seem to want to throw over the whole thing, and at the last moment, it will be a tough struggle to hold on till this later date. I don’t mind all the worry if only you didn’t seem to be dissatisfied after it all – that is the last straw.
Sull (Writing in his diary) (accentuate the year) 11th November 1890 – Gilbert met Mr & Mrs Carte by appointment today to discuss the disputes – admitted he had been wrong and badly advised – asked Carte to agree that their settlement was of a friendly and private nature. Carte has subsequently advised me that he will give no statement to the newspapers.
The Mikado: The threatened cloud has passed away
Sull (Writing) Dear Gilbert – 4th October 1891 (accentuate the year) Tom Chappell tells me that you and I should submit the matters which have been the cause of our rupture to a third party, and according to his decision, that one or the other of us should confess himself in the wrong, and thereupon we could renew our friendly relations.
The original dispute is all settled and forgotten. I feel that it would be a great mistake to reopen these matters now and the reference to a third party would only produce interminable arguments and counter-arguments. I am quite ready to meet you in the most friendly spirit, provided that the disagreeable events of the past eighteen months are never alluded to, or at least never discussed. I say this in good faith, and I hope you will meet me in the same spirit.
Gilb (Writing) Dear Sullivan – Finally, through the good offices of our publisher, Chappell, and his mediation we appear to have dispelled all the past unpleasantness and, notwithstanding both of our commitments to others, we should finally be able to discuss our next collaboration. If you can suggest any reasonable means whereby this cloud can be removed, it will give me infinite pleasure to adopt it.
Sull (Writing) (Takes up a sheet of paper) 6th October – Dear Gilbert, Let us meet and shake hands. We can dispel the clouds hanging over us by setting up a counter irritant in the form of a cloud of smoke.
(Writing in his diary) 12th October 1891 – Gilbert came by appointment at 12 – stayed till 2- full reconciliation and shook hands.
Gilb (Writing) Dear Sullivan – Let me meet with Carte to arrange the terms, then I can set to work on the piece on which we agreed, Utopia (Limited), which I believe can be a visual spectacle but that will require a large company of players. I will aim to have the first act ready for you by February or March or whenever you feel able to tackle it.
Sull (Writing) (accentuate the year) Dear Gilbert – 12th December, I am renting a villa for the winter months at Roquebrune. I am sending you some sweets for Christmas. Don’t make yourself ill.
Gilb (Writing) Dear Sullivan – I have agreed an arrangement with Mrs Carte that I would take eleven percentage points of the receipts in the new opera, which she has convinced me represents a one-third share of net profits.
Now at last I can return to the plot for the new opera. But I confess that I am concerned that, given my changed position in questions of management of the Savoy, perhaps my voice will not carry in questions of casting.
Sull (Writing) Dear Gilbert – Our pieces have been distinguished by the extraordinary one-ness in idea and construction they display. Surely we can work together without special clauses to meet difficulties which cannot arise if we are all acting in good faith?
(Writing in his diary) Made a statement to the Inland Revenue about my income for the financial year ended spring 1892, my income had halved compared to the previous year. Explained that the chief source of my income is derived from my operas when running at the Savoy Theatre but I have not received one penny from that source since the end of 1890. Neither did I derive any income whatever from the Royal English Opera House during the year 1891.
(The cast files off during this next song)
Loosely from Patience:
Sull (Writing) Don’t misunderstand my silence, it is simply so that I should not, by any word or phrase accidentally used, prejudice the understanding we are striving to arrive at. Delighted to hear that you have accepted my invitation to the villa here in Ruquebrune, you will of course come here and make this your home. There is not a single question to be discussed between us except how we shall make a brilliant opera.
Gilb (Writing) Dear Sullivan – 2nd February 1893 – it was a great pleasure to meet with you and Groves in Monte Carlo and to have the opportunity to read through the plot. You were most hospitable and I was delighted that you both opined that it is the best plot I’ve done.
Sull (Writing) Dear Gilbert – Your notion of the king of a languid south seas’ island seeking to modernise by adopting all the customs and institutions of Great Britain is inspired. The king then making his nation a ‘company limited’ based up on the English Companies Act of 1862 is hilarious.
Helen (Writing) Dear Mr Gilbert I am writing to ask you to contribute to an orchestral charity.
Gilb (Writing) Dear Mrs Carte, I hate the orchestra. They take up a lot of paying stalls – they are the most cantankerous and independent set in the theatre – and they play so loud that my words can’t be heard. Moreover, like many other high-souled and independent specimens of Nature’s nobility, they are the first to come begging, cap in hand, when they are in difficulties. Having thus blown off steam, I have much pleasure in sending five guineas for the fund.
Sull (Writing) Dear Gilbert,I saw your note to Helen about the orchestra, very droll. Perhaps next time I should write all the music pizzicato, so as to save the room taken up by the violin bows?
I must state that I am not altogether sure of your notion to invite the press to attend our rehearsals. Can we have any control over what they might say about us before we have completed our arrangements and business? Perhaps you may need to temper some of your usual comments and present us as a harmonious group?
Helen (Writing) Dear Mr Gilbert, I am sorry to hear of your relapse and current discomfiture. Perhaps it might help if you know that the demand for seats at the production is greater than on any former occasion.
(Office sets go off, curtain rises on Utopia set – the Throne Room of the Palace)
Utopia, Limited: Finale
Bar as KING, BBar as SCAPHIO, Sopr as Princess ZARA, Tenor as PHANTIS, BAILEY BARRE (not singing), CHORUS
CHORUS: As literary merit does in England!
SCAPHIO: Boons? Bah! A fico for such boons, say we!
KING: (to Zara)
ZARA: I don’t know – I don’t understand it. We must have omitted something.
KING: Omitted something? Yes, that’s all very well, but… (Sir Bailey Barre whispers to Zara.)
ZARA: (suddenly) Of course! Now I remember! Why, I had forgotten the most essential element of all!
KING: And that is?
KING: Oh, may we copy all her maxims wise,
Such, at least, is the tale
(Curtain falls then rises for the cast to take several [artificial] curtain calls still as part of this performance, with recorded applause and cheers to greet them, Sull emerges to recorded applause, bows and leaves the stage, Gilb enters to recorded applause and bows, Sull appears behind him, the two shake hands, tumultuous applause, the curtain drops.)
(The cast begins to sing ‘Onward Christian Soldiers’ – from behind the curtain initially)
ONWARD CHRISTIAN SOLDIERS
ALL: (the original words):
Onward, Christian soldiers, marching as to war,
(Curtain rises to see the cast assembled on the Utopia set)
Refrain: (players call for audience to join in on the refrain)
At the sign of triumph Satan’s host doth flee;
Like a mighty army moves the church of God;
Crowns and thrones may perish, kingdoms rise and wane,
Onward then, ye people, join our happy throng,
(Curtain drops then rises for the real curtain