About Gilbert & Sullivan
Still known and loved a full 140 years after the debut of their first collaboration, W. S. Gilbert and Sir Arthur Sullivan stand among the most influential composer/lyricist partnerships of all time.
It is mid-day and the villagers of Ploverleigh are assembled before the mansion of Sir Marmaduke Pointdexter, voicing their joy at the betrothal of Sir Marmaduke's heir, Alexis, to Aline, the only child of the equally aristocratic neighbor, the Lady Sangazure. There is only one present who does not share in the general joy: Constance, the daughter of the pew-opener, Mrs. Partlet, is downcast, for she loves (vainly it seems) the Vicar, Dr. Daly.
In preparing for Aline's arrival, Sir Marmaduke chides his son for the effusive nature of his behavior towards Aline, and describes his own more becoming behavior, long ago, when he was enamored of Aline's mother. Aline then arrives, and Alexis greets her with ecstasy. A duet follows between Sir Marmaduke and Lady Sangazure, hinting that perhaps not all is finished in their relationship. A betrothal ceremony is held, and Alexis and Aline are left alone. Alexis explains that he believes that men and women should be coupled in matrimony without distinction of rank. His own happiness seemingly assured, he reveals his scheme for making the whole village happy. He has engaged John Wellington Wells, a Sorcerer, to administer a love philtre to all the villagers!
Mr. Wells arrives and comes to an agreement with Alexis. He thereupon proceeds to an Incantation to produce the philtre. The villagers are invited to tea, dosed with the love philtre, and all fall insensible.
ACT II : It is midnight, and the villagers are sleeping where they fell. They awaken, and immediately fall in love with the first person of the opposite sex that they see. Alexis is so pleased with the success of his scheme that he urges Aline to join him in drinking the philtre, in order that their love may never be subject to change. She refuses, and they quarrel. Alexis discovers that the philtre has led his father to fix not on the estimable Lady Sangazure, but Mrs. Partlet. Mr. Wells falls victim to his own spell, and finds himself pursued by Lady Sangazure. And poor Constance realizes she has transferred her affections from Dr. Daly to another sort of man entirely.
Aline, alone and confused, decides to fall in with Alexis' wishes, and drinks the philtre. Immediately, she catches sight of Dr. Daly and of course falls in love with him. He is delighted at his good fortune, but Alexis is astounded and dismayed. All turn to Mr. Wells to solve their dilemmas, and he reveals there is only one way the spell can be revoked.
Empire Lyric Players performed The Sorcerer in 2001 and 2013.
Edwin, tiring of his sweetheart Angelina, falls in love with another; and Angelina accordingly hails him into court for breach of promise. At the rise of the curtain the Usher, while enjoining impartiality on the Jurymen, shows a definite partiality himself for the fair Plaintiff. Edwin explains that he simply happened to fall in love with another girl. Though both Jury and Judge indicate that they have similar episodes in their own past, they have little sympathy for him.
After the Jury is sworn in, Angelina appears and immediately captivates all the men present. Her lawyer gives a stirring speech, and she falls sobbing on his breast.
Edwin proposes various solutions, but in vain. He offers to marry her if he may marry his other sweetheart later, but her lawyer objects. Edwin tries to dissuade her from wanting to marry him at all, saying that when he is drunk he would beat her. The Judge proposes that Edwin be made drunk to see whether he would, but her lawyer objects.
Finally, the Judge, disgusted at the objections and eager to get away, marries Angelina himself.
Empire Lyric Players performed Trial by Jury in 1963, 1979, and 1998.
Some time before Act I opens, Ralph has fallen in love with Josephine, the daughter of his commanding officer, Captain Corcoran. Likewise, Little Buttercup, a buxom peddler-woman, has fallen in love with the Captain himself. Class pride, however, stands in the way of the natural inclinations of both the Corcorans to reciprocate Ralph's and Buttercup's affections. The Captain has, in fact, been arranging a marriage between his daughter and Sir Joseph Porter, First Lord of the Admiralty, who is of the social class above even the Corcorans.
When Act I opens, the sailors are merrily preparing the ship for Sir Joseph's inspection. The generally happy atmosphere on deck is marred only by little Buttercup's hints of a dark secret she is hiding, by the misanthropic grumbling of Dick Deadeye, and by the love-lorn plaints of Ralph and Josephine. Sir Joseph appears, attended by a train of ladies (his relatives, who always follow him wherever he goes). He explains how he became Lord of the Admiralty and examines the crew, patronizingly encouraging them to feel that they are everyone's equal, except his. Like the Captain, he is very punctilious, demanding polite diction among the sailors at all times.
Josephine finds him insufferable; and, when Ralph again pleads his suit and finally threatens Suicide, she agrees to elope. The act ends with the general rejoicing of the sailors at Ralph's success; only Dick Deadeye croaks his warning that their hopes will be frustrated.
Act II opens with the Captain in despair at the demoralization of his crew and the coldness of his daughter towards Sir Joseph. Little Buttercup tries to comfort him, and prophesies a change in store. But Sir Joseph soon appears and tells the Captain that Josephine has thoroughly discouraged him in his suit; he wishes to call the match off. The Captain suggests that perhaps his daughter feels herself inferior in social rank to Sir Joseph, and urges him to assure her that inequality of social rank should not be considered a barrier to marriage. This Sir Joseph does, not realizing that his words are as applicable to Josephine in relation to Ralph as they are to himself in relation to Josephine. He thinks that she accepts him, whereas actually she is reaffirming her acceptance of Ralph; and they all join in a happy song.
Meanwhile Dick Deadeye has made his way to the Captain, and informs him of the planned elopement of his daughter with Ralph. The Captain thereupon intercepts the elopers; and, when he learns that Josephine was actually running away to marry Ralph, he is so incensed that he cries, "Damme!" Unfortunately, Sir Joseph and his relatives hear him and are horrified at his swearing; Sir Joseph sends him to his cabin in disgrace. But when Sir Joseph also learns from Ralph that Josephine was eloping, he angrily orders Ralph put in irons.
Little Buttercup now comes out with her secret, which solves the whole difficulty: she confesses that many years ago she had charge of nursing and bringing up Ralph and the Captain when they were babies. Inadvertently, she got them mixed up; so the one who now was Ralph really should be the Captain, and the one now the Captain should be Ralph. This error is immediately rectified. The sudden reversal in the social status of Ralph and the Corcorans removes Sir Joseph as a suitor for Josephine's hand and permits her to marry Ralph, and her father to marry Buttercup. Sir Joseph resigns himself to marrying his cousin, Hebe.
Empire Lyric Players performed H.M.S. Pinafore in 1958, 1963, 1971, 1979, 1986, 1992, and in the year 2000 with the Colorado premiere of "Reflect, My Child" a number that was cut for unknown reasons from the original production.
When Frederic was yet a little boy, his nurse (Ruth) was told to apprentice him to become a pilot. She heard the word incorrectly and apprenticed him to a band of pirates, remaining with them herself as a maid-of-all-work. Although Frederic loathed the trade to which he had thus been bound, he dutifully served; and, as the curtain rises, his indentures are almost up and he is preparing to leave the band and devote himself to the extermination of piracy.
He urges the pirates to join him in embracing a more lawful calling, but they refuse. Ruth, however, wishes to become his wife. Having seen but few women he does not know whether she is really as pretty as she says she is; but he finally consents to take her.
Just then a group of girls, all the wards of Major-General Stanley, happen upon the scene. Frederic sees their beauty - and Ruth's plainness - and renounces her. Of these girls, Mabel takes a particular interest in Frederic, and he in her. The other girls are seized by the pirates and threatened with immediate marriage. When the Major-General arrives, he can dissuade the pirates only by a ruse: he tells them that he is an orphan, and so works upon their sympathies that they let him and his wards go free.
During the ensuing days and nights, however, this lie troubles the Major-General's conscience: he sits brooding over it at night in a gothic ruin. He is consoled by his wards' sympathy and Frederic's plan of immediately leading a band of police against the pirates.
Meanwhile the Pirate King and Ruth appear at the window and beckon Frederic: they have discovered that his indentures were to run until his twenty-first birthday, and - as he was born on February 29 - he has really had as yet only five birthdays. Obeying the dictates of his strong sense of duty, he immediately rejoins the pirates. He tells them of the deception that has been practiced upon them, and they seize and bind the Major-General.
But the police come to the rescue and charge the pirates to yield, "in Queen Victoria's name. This they do. Ruth explains, however, that these men who appear to be lawless pirates are really all "noblemen who have gone wrong", and they are pardoned and permitted to marry the Major-General's wards.
Empire Lyric Players performed Pirates of Penzance in 1959, 1965, 1974, 1985, and 1994.
This timely satire on the aesthetic craze of the 1880's presents a "Fleshly Poet" - Bunthorne - and an "Idyllic Poet" - Grosvenor - who are rivals for the affections of the milkmaid, Patience. Unfortunately, Patience's possible interest in either one is contingent on the aesthetic concepts of "perfection" she has learned from the languid ladies of the village. Those ladies, who trail after Bunthorne hanging on his every poem, are no longer swayed by their former flames, a regiment of officers of the Dragoon guards led by a Colonel, a Duke and a Major.
Patience, having been told that love must be absolutely unselfish, has to reject the perfect Grosvenor (Archibald the All-Right) and accept the very imperfect Bunthorne. Bunthorne, of course, is delighted and this defection of their idol drives the ladies back to their military lovers, but the reunion is soon broken up by the arrival of Grosvenor, to whom they promptly transfer their adoration. The three Dragoon officers, desperate to regain their ladies' love, decide to adopt an aesthetic pose, which is more (or less) successful. The baffled Bunthorne (who had grown rather fond of the adoration of every lady in sight), aided by Lady Jane, concocts a scheme to get rid of the interloper by means of a terrible Curse, which will compel Grosvenor to give up his aestheticism and become a quite common-place young man.
The plan, however, recoils, as all the ladies now revert to their former non-aesthetic sensibilities, explaining that since Archibald the All-Right cannot possible be All-Wrong, obviously aestheticism ought to be discarded. Patience, discovering that her Archibald is no longer perfect, promptly falls into his arms and Bunthorne, crushed, decides to wed Jane, his one remaining adorer. However, the plot's complications are not resolved until the Dragoons return and lure the ladies back into their arms and the identity of "Bunthorne's Bride" is disclosed.
Empire Lyric Players performed Patience in 1964, 1973, 1988, and 1999.
Twenty-five years previous to the action of the opera, Iolanthe, a fairy, had committed the capital crime of marrying a mortal. The Queen of the Fairies had commuted the death sentence to banishment for life - on the condition that Iolanthe must leave her husband without explanation and never see him again. Her son Strephon has grown up as a shepherd, half fairy, half mortal. Strephon loves Phyllis, a shepherdess who is also a ward in Chancery; she returns his love, and knows nothing of the mixed origin.
At the beginning of the opera, the Queen is prevailed upon by other fairies to recall Iolanthe from exile. Strephon joins the glad reunion and announces his intention of marrying Phyllis in spite of the Lord Chancellor, her guardian, who refuses permission. The Queen approves, and plans to influence certain boroughs to elect Strephon to Parliament.
Meanwhile the entire House of Lords is enamored of Phyllis; they appeal in a body to the Lord Chancellor to give her to whichever peer she may select. The Lord Chancellor is also suffering the pangs of love, but feels he has no legal right to assign her to himself. Phyllis declines to marry a peer; Strephon pleads his cause in court again, but in vain. Iolanthe enters and holds tender converse with her son. Since she, like all fairies, looks like a girl of seventeen, Phyllis and the peers misinterpret the situation; they ridicule Strephon's claim that Iolanthe is his mother. Phyllis declares now that she will marry either Lord Mountararat or Lord Tolloller.
The fairies take revenge by not merely sending Strephon to Parliament, but also influence both houses to pass any bills he may introduce. His innovations culminate in a bill to throw the peerage open to competitive examination. The Peers, seeing their doom approaching, appeal to the fairies to desist. The Fairies have fallen in love with the Peers and would like to oblige, but it is too late to stop Strephon. The Queen reproaches her subjects for their feminine weakness; she acknowledges her own weakness for a sentry, Private Willis, but asserts that she has it under control.
Lord Mountararat and Lord Tolloller discover that if either marries Phyllis, family tradition will require the loser to kill his successful rival; both therefore renounce Phyllis in the name of friendship. The Lord Chancellor, after considerable struggle, pleads his own cause before himself and convinces himself that the law would allow him to marry her.
Meanwhile Strephon makes Phyllis understand that his mother is a fairy, and they are reconciled. They persuade Iolanthe to appeal to the Lord Chancellor. To make the appeal effective, she reveals her identity to him - her husband - and thus again incurs the death penalty. The other fairies, however, have married their respective Peers, and announce to the Queen that they all have incurred the same sentence. The Lord Chancellor suggests the legal expedient of inserting a single word, to make the law read that every fairy who does not marry a mortal shall die. The Queen corrects the scroll, and asks Private Willis to save her life by marrying her. All the mortals present are then transformed into fairies and fly away with their consorts to Fairyland, leaving the House of Lords to be replenished according to intelligence rather than birth.
Empire Lyric Players performed Iolanthe in 1970, 1981, 1987, 1995 and 2005.
When both were very young, some twenty years ago, Princess Ida and Prince Hilarion were betrothed by their respective fathers. In the intervening years, however, having only seen each other once, their marriage faces a few minor obstacles. In particular, Ida has sworn off men and is distinctly not interested in the idea of marriage. Ida's father, the disagreeable King Gama ("a twisted monster - all awry"), has arrived at King Hildebrand's castle to break the news: Ida, holed up at Castle Adamant, adamantly refuses to marry Hildebrand's son, the prince. Hilarion, rather enamored with the idea of taking Ida to wife and speculating about the "transmutations...conjured by/the silent alchemy of twenty years," decides to scale the walls of the castle and see the princess for himself. His companions Cyril and Florian are further emboldened by the thought that Castle Adamant is a college for young - and presumably pretty - women, run by Ida, its principle. How many other lovelies will they find there?
While an imminent threat of death hangs over Gama's head and the heads of his three sons because of Ida's stubborn refusal to marry any man, Hilarion, Cyril, and Florian follow through on their plan to cross the wall of the castle, where they will disguise themselves as new lady undergraduates. Florian's sister Psyche, Professor of Humanities, would have recognized them anyway, so they confess to her their identities and are then introduced to Melissa, who is well impressed with her first sight of men. Melissa's mother, Lady Blanche, Professor of Abstract Philosophy, envies Ida her superior position in the academy hierarchy. She therefore turns a blind eye to the presence of the men, hoping Ida will be forced to honor her babyhood's promise and, in so leaving the academy, will also leave her position vacant for Blanche.
During lunch, when Cyril has drunk a bit too much wine in the hot sun and, tipsy, is prone to argument and flirtation, a "discussion" among the men ensues as to the suitability of Cyril's rather bawdy song. Ida discovers the men's ruse after the argument has escalated to near-epic proportions. In running away from her fiancé, Ida falls into the nearby stream and would have drowned but for Hilarion's quick rescue. For his heroic efforts, he finds himself arrested. Meanwhile, King Hildebrand's army has stormed the castle and Ida's brothers (Arac and the twins, Guron and Scynthius) are paraded before her as miserable hostages. Steadfast, Ida still refuses the prince's hand. Hoping for a change of heart, that "peppery" monarch, Hildebrand, decides to delay - for one day - the executions of her family.
By now the lady undergraduates have taken up arms against King Hildebrand's men, but they balk at the heavy armor and the mere thought of bloodshed. Ida alone maintains her determination. Gama begs her to reconsider, citing horrible tortures by Hildebrand. Ida is provided with a possible escape when it is suggested that her brothers, though men, fight a duel on her behalf with her fiancé and his friends. Arac, Guron, and Scynthius thus remove their armor and engage in one-on-one combat with Hilarion, Cyril, and Florian. But, alas for Ida, her brothers are defeated and, reluctantly, she forgoes her "cherished scheme...To band all women with my maiden throng,/And make them all abjure tyrannic Man": she acquiesces to the marriage. Psyche for her own part is engaged to marry Cyril, a childhood sweetheart, and Melissa accepts Florian. Tyrannic man has somehow become husband.
Empire Lyric Players performed Princess Ida in 1978, 1989, and 1998.
Before the action of the opera begins, Nanki-Poo has fled from the court of his father, the Mikado of Japan, to escape marriage with an elderly lady, named Katisha. Assuming the disguise of a musician, he has then fallen in love with a fair maiden, Yum-Yum; but he has been prevented from marrying her by her guardian, Ko-Ko, who wishes to marry her himself. Ko-Ko, however, has been condemned to death for flirting; and, when Act I opens, Nanki-Poo is hastening to the court of Ko-Ko in Titipu to find out whether Yum-Yum is now free to marry him.
From Pooh-Bah (a corrupt and proud public official) and Pish-Tush (a nobleman), Nanki-Poo learns that Ko-Ko has, instead, become Lord High Executioner, thus preventing the sentence of decapitation from being carried out. Ko-Ko is, in fact, going to marry Yum-Yum that very afternoon.
Everything seems to be going well for Ko-Ko, but suddenly a letter comes from the Mikado ordering him to execute somebody or else lose his position of Lord High Executioner. He is in a quandary to find someone to execute, when Nanki-Poo appears, bent upon suicide because he cannot marry Yum-Yum. By conceding to him the right to marry Yum-Yum for a month, Ko-Ko persuades Nanki-Poo to be the subject for the public execution when that month is up. There is general rejoicing in this apparent solution to the problem, marred only by the unexpected appearance of Katisha, in quest of the vanished object of her affections, Nanki-Poo. She is driven away, but threatens to go to the Mikado about the matter.
Act II opens with Yum Yum preparing for her marriage with Nanki-Poo. As all are singing a "merry madrigal", Ko-Ko comes in with the news that he has just discovered a law stating that when a married man is executed his wife must be buried alive. To save Yum-Yum from that fate, Nanki-Poo decides to kill himself at once. But this again throws Ko-Ko into a quandary to find someone to execute (especially as he has heard that the Mikado is at that moment on his way to Titipu). Nanki-Poo magnanimously offers himself for immediate decapitation, but Ko-Ko is unable to perform the act without some practice.
Another way out of the dilemma presents itself: Ko-Ko has Pooh-Bah make a false affidavit that Nanki-Poo has been executed, and bids Nanki-Poo and Yum-Yum leave the country.
The Mikado soon appears. Ko-Ko thinks that the object of his visit is to see whether the execution has taken place. He accordingly produces the affidavit and describes with gusto the execution. But the Mikado has actually come at the prompting of Katisha in search of his lost son. When the fact transpires that the person whom Ko-Ko has supposedly executed is really the Mikado's son, Ko-Ko and his accomplices are declared guilty of "compassing the death of the Heir Apparent". The only hope for them is to admit the falsehood of the affidavit and produce Nanki-Poo alive. But, as Nanki-Poo has already married Yum-Yum and so cannot marry Katisha, Katisha will surely insist on the execution of Nanki-Poo and Yum-Yum. Ko-Ko solves the problem by offering his hand to Katisha; and, after he sings her the touching ballad of "Willow, tit willow", she accepts him. The end of the opera comes with Nanki-Poo's discovering himself as the son of the Mikado.
Empire Lyric Players performed Mikado in 1961, 1968, 1975, 1982, 1990 and 1997.
An early Baronet of Ruddigore had a witch burned at the stake, and she cursed him and all his line, dooming them to commit at least one crime a day, under penalty of dying in unspeakable agony. Dame Hannah narrates this legend to the Chorus of Professional Bridesmaids, gathered around the cottage of Rose Maybud, an attractive young damsel who has not yet found a husband. Robin Oakapple, a young farmer, is in love with Rose, but is too bashful to declare his passion. We now learn through Adam, an old retainer, that Robin is really Sir Ruthven (pronounced "Rivven") Murgatroyd, the true Baronet of Ruddigore, who has fled from the curse, leaving it, with the title and estates, to his younger brother, Despard. His foster brother, Richard Dauntless, who has just returned from the sea, also knows Robin's true identity. Learning of the deadlock in Robin's love affair, Richard volunteers to see the lady and clear up the situation. On meeting Rose, however, he too falls in love with her, and, as his guiding principle is to obey "the dictates of his heart", avows his love to her, and is accepted. But when Rose learns of Robin's love for her, she promptly transfers her affections to him, remarking that while Richard is a penniless sailor, Robin is a prosperous farmer.
Mad Margaret enters, and we learn that she has been in love with the present bad baronet, Despard. In a song, Despard reveals the depths of his infamy, but notes that he makes a point of atoning for every bad action by following it with a good one. Richard, still obeying the "dictates of his heart", reveals to him that his brother, Sir Ruthven is alive, and is in this very village, masquerading as Robin Oakapple. Robin now enters with his promised bride and the Chorus of Bridesmaids to finish the nuptials. But the wedding is rudely interrupted by the revelation that Robin is really the Bad Baronet. Rose promptly offers herself to Sir Despard, who declares that he, being no longer the bad baronet but a virtuous person, will be true to Mad Margaret. So Rose, not at all abashed, once more falls back on Richard, and a dance ends the first act.
The second act takes place in the gloomy Picture Gallery of Ruddigore Castle, where the portraits of his ancestors look grimly down upon a sadly changed Robin. Richard and Rose dance in with their train of Bridesmaids to ask Robin's consent to their marriage. After some trouble, they obtain it, and depart. Robin then makes an impassioned appeal to his ancestors to relieve him of the necessity of doing a daily crime. Stepping down from their frames, and led by his uncle Roderic, they accuse him of evading the terms of the Curse, and order him to do something really wicked - carry off a maiden that very day. When he refuses, they give him a sample of the "agonies" they have the power to inflict, and he is compelled to yield. The ancestors return to their frames, and Robin orders Adam to go at once and bring him a maiden - any maiden!
A reformed Despard and Margaret now appear, soberly attired, and describe themselves as district visitors engaged in charitable activities. They have come to implore Robin to forswear his wicked ways. He declares he will do so, when, upon their departure, Adam enters with the "maiden" he was sent to abduct. She turns out to be none other than the mature Dame Hannah, who proves so well able to protect herself that Robin has to call upon his uncle Roderic for help. Roderic steps down from his frame, and we learn that he and Hannah were once lovers. Robin is summarily dismissed, and the reunited pair indulge in a sentimental duet. Their reunion is interrupted by the excited entrance of Robin - he has the solution of the whole business. Pointing out that, as a refusal to fulfill the terms of the Curse amounts to suicide, and as suicide is itself a crime, it follows that the Curse is inoperative! So Roderic finds that he must still be alive, Rose at once becomes the bride of a reformed Robin, Richard appropriates the chief bridesmaid, and all ends in general rejoicing.
Empire Lyric Players performed Ruddigore in 1960, 1969, 1980, 1993 and 2004.
Traveling players Jack point and pretty Elsie Maynard have arrived in London to entertain the residents of the Tower, villagers and Yeomen alike. They find a crowd both hostile and impudent, with many a naughty word - and a naughty gesture - directed toward the lovely young woman.
But the crowd is not the only thing to frighten Elsie: there are very mysterious doings at the castle. Offered a hundred crowns to marry a convicted sorcerer, Elsie is a somewhat reluctant bride to a man she never sees, the unknown Colonel Fairfax, currently under sentence of death. Jack, who loves Elsie and plans to marry her himself, is concerned at such turn of events but, assured that she will soon enough be a widow and in order to stay near her, gets himself appointed Jester to the Lieutenant in charge of the Tower.
With the escape of Colonel Fairfax from the dungeon, however, everyone's plans are altered. Jack schemes with jailer Wilfred Shadbolt: Jack to regain the hand of his beloved and Wilfred to prove himself a hero. They concoct stories of Fairfax's desperate escape across the river and Shadbolt's firing upon the dastard in the night. But even wily Jack cannot produce a body when there is none. Colonel Fairfax has, in fact, disappeared.
Will Elsie remain an unwitting bride? Can Jack outwit all the brave men of the tower? And what of Colonel Fairfax? Must Elsie stay with him? Where is he, anyway? Can there ever be a happy ending for such a motley collection of characters?
Perhaps - in Gilbert & Sullivan's Yeomen of the Guard!
Empire Lyric Players performed The Yeomen of the Guard in 1966, 1972, 1983, in the year 2002 with an added bonus song by Wilfred Shadbolt, and in 2012.
Twenty years before the opening of the action, when Casilda (the heroine) was yet a baby, she and the infant heir to the throne of Barataria were married. Shortly thereafter he disappeared, supposedly abducted to Venice by the Grand Inquisitor, Don Alhambra, and there brought up. At length, as the result of insurrection, the throne of Barataria became vacant; and Casilda's father, the somewhat moth-eaten Duke of Plaza-Toro, wished to establish his daughter as Queen. He accordingly went to Venice - accompanied by his wife, daughter, and Luiz, his drummer - in search of his daughter's missing husband.
As the curtain rises, a chorus of contadine (peasant girls) are waiting for the two leading gondoliers, Giuseppe and Marco, to come and choose their brides from among them. By a sort of blinds man's buff, the two men choose Tessa and Gianetta; and they all dance off to the altar.
The Duke of Plaza-Toro and suite meanwhile arrive in Venice. The Duke tells Casilda about her childhood marriage. Luiz and Casilda (who - unknown to her parents - are in love with each other) accordingly renounce their love. Don Alhambra appears and tells them that the person they are seeking is either Giuseppe or Marco, he is not sure which. He will send for the nurse who took care of the infant prince (she now lives far away, in the mountains); and, when she arrives, she will be able to tell them which one it is. Meanwhile, Giuseppe and Marco are to go to Barataria at once and rule jointly until the matter is straightened out.
Giuseppe and Marco are overjoyed at the prospect; and, with plans for instituting an ideal state in Barataria, they set sail. Tessa and Gianetta remain behind, with the vague promise from Don Alhambra that they may later join their husbands, and with the idea that one of them will then be Queen.
Act II is set in Barataria, where Giuseppe and Marco have established their extremely limited monarchy. Everything seems to be going well, except for the fact that they miss their wives. Suddenly Tessa and Gianetta appear, having become impatient and made the trip to Barataria in spite of Don Alhambra's injunction. General happiness now reigns, and all dance a cachucha.
A slight cloud appears on the horizon when Don Alhambra enters and points out the weaknesses of Giuseppe's and Marco's system of government. When he learns that Tessa and Gianetta are there, he is somewhat disturbed, and tells them about the prince's infant marriage. This revelation is a heavy blow to the hopes of Tessa and Gianetta; for not only is neither of them to be Queen, but also one of them is actually not married at all. The Duke of Plaza-Toro enters and further criticizes Giuseppe's and Marco's court, and attempts to teach the joint rulers some court etiquette.
At length the woman arrives who had been the nurse of the baby prince when he was married to Casilda: she discloses that neither Giuseppe or Marco is the rightful heir, but Luiz. Thus Casilda is united with the man she loves, and Giuseppe and Marco may return to their wives and gondolas.
Empire Lyric Players performed The Gondoliers in 1962, 1967, 1976, 1986, and 1996.
• Biography of Gilbert & Sullivan by Jason Ankeny