Hephaestus's Blog


Gilbert and Sullivan: A Personal Story
January 20, 2015, 20:36
Filed under: Uncategorized

My fascination with Gilbert and Sullivan‘s comic operas, or G&S as they are affectionately called, began in about April or May 2012. That was when I found the Major-General’s Song from The Pirates of Penzance, via Tom Lehrer’s The Elements song. How I found Lehrer is a story for another time, but suffice it to say that I saw the Major-General’s Song mentioned as the original tune for the Elements in a YouTube video, and was sufficiently curious to do a search to find out what it was. (Curiosity can do wonderful things for you. I wholeheartedly recommend it.) This led me to listening to the Major-General’s Song many times in many different versions. Within a few weeks I had moved on to more of Pirates, facilitated by the many clips from the 1983 movie on YouTube. Soon after that I began to listen to other G&S music as well, starting with H.M.S. Pinafore and then The Mikado. That summer, I attended my first performance of a Gilbert and Sullivan opera, a slightly avant-garde Pirates by a group from Chicago. My first “normal” performance was a Mikado by the Harvard-Radcliffe Gilbert and Sullivan Players. I wrote about that one here.

Since then, I have attended two productions of Pirates and one each of Patience, Utopia, Ltd., IolantheThe Gondoliers, and another Mikado.

While this was how I first began to listen to Gilbert and Sullivan’s music, it was not the first time I heard of G&S. For that, we must go back to 2011. Sometime in that year, I am not certain exactly when, I noticed that Gilbert and Sullivan was mentioned in a book I have on steam locomotives. (There is a type of locomotive known colloquially as the Mikado, and the book says the name is after G&S.) So, wondering what Gilbert and Sullivan’s Mikado was, I looked it up. To my great surprise, it is a comic opera. But if you got this far in this (somewhat long) post without knowing that, then you should go read the rest.

So, after spending a few hours browsing through the lyrics of a few songs on Wikisource, I then promptly forgot all about G&S, and paid no more attention to it until over half a year later. That was when  the events described above occurred. (See above.)

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