Major Operas | The Gondoliers by Arthur Sullivan | Turn of the Century

Composed: 1889
Premiered: 1889, London
Libretto by W. S. Gilbert

Act I

Marco and Giuseppe, two gondoliers of proud republican descent, choose Gianetta and Tessa as their brides. The Duke and Duchess of Plaza-Toro arrive in Venice with their daughter Casilda and their servant Luiz. Casilda is told that she was married when a baby to the infant son of the King of Barataria. Don Alhambra, the Grand Inquisitor, abducted her husband when the King became a Wesleyan Methodist. After a coup she is now Queen. Luiz, whose mother was the prince’s nurse, and Casilda sadly renounce their secret love. Don Alhambra explains that her husband is one of two gondoliers. The wedding party is interrupted by Don Alhambra’s news that one of them is a king. Gianetta and Tessa are excited at the prospect of being a queen, but they are told they must stay in Venice while Marco and Giuseppe sail to Barataria to rule jointly until their old nurse can identify the rightful king.

Act II

Marco and Giuseppe are happy enough, insisting on doing their share of housework, but miss their wives. They are amazed when Gianetta and Tessa burst in, having grown tired of waiting for them to write. Don Alhambra breaks up their celebratory dance and tells them to behave like kings. He explains that one of them is married to Casilda. The wives are devastated. The Duke’s finances have been transformed by cashing in on commoners’ fascination with aristocracy. He teaches Marco and Giuseppe to dance a gavotte. Left alone with Casilda they confess their love for their wives, who join them in reflecting on an unprecedented quandary. The nurse reveals that, as a precaution, she had swapped over the infant prince and her own son. Luiz is the rightful King of Barataria.

Personalities | Arthur Sullivan | Turn of the Century | Opera


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