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W. S. Gilbert

Sir William Schwenck Gilbert (18 November 1836 – 29 May 1911) was an English dramatist, librettist, poet and illustrator best known for his collaboration with composer Arthur Sullivan, which produced fourteen comic operas. The most famous of these include H.M.S. Pinafore, The Pirates of Penzance and one of the most frequently performed works in the history of musical theatre, The Mikado. The popularity of these works was supported for over a century by year-round performances of them, in Britain and abroad, by the repertory company that Gilbert, Sullivan and their producer Richard D'Oyly Carte founded, the D'Oyly Carte Opera Company. These Savoy operas continue to be frequently performed in the English-speaking world and beyond.

Gilbert's creative output included over 75 plays and libretti, and numerous short stories, poems and lyrics, both comic and serious. After brief careers as a government clerk and a lawyer, Gilbert began to focus, in the 1860s, on writing light verse, including his Bab Ballads, short stories, theatre reviews and illustrations, often for Fun magazine. He also began to write burlesques and his first comic plays, developing a unique absurdist, inverted style that would later be known as his "topsy-turvy" style. He also developed a realistic method of stage direction and a reputation as a strict theatre director. In the 1870s, Gilbert wrote 40 plays and libretti, including his German Reed Entertainments, several blank-verse "fairy comedies", some serious plays, and his first five collaborations with Sullivan: Thespis, Trial by Jury, The Sorcerer, H.M.S. Pinafore and The Pirates of Penzance. In the 1880s, Gilbert focused on the Savoy operas, including Patience, Iolanthe, The Mikado, The Yeomen of the Guard and The Gondoliers.

In 1890, after this long and profitable creative partnership, Gilbert quarrelled with Sullivan and Carte concerning expenses at the Savoy Theatre; the dispute is referred to as the "carpet quarrel". Gilbert won the ensuing lawsuit, but the argument caused hurt feelings among the partnership. Although Gilbert and Sullivan were persuaded to collaborate on two last operas, they were not as successful as the previous ones. In later years, Gilbert wrote several plays, and a few operas with other collaborators. He retired, with his wife Lucy, and their ward, Nancy McIntosh, to a country estate, Grim's Dyke. He was knighted in 1907. Gilbert died of a heart attack while attempting to rescue a young woman to whom he was giving a swimming lesson in the lake at his home.

Gilbert's plays inspired other dramatists, including Oscar Wilde and George Bernard Shaw, and his comic operas with Sullivan inspired the later development of American musical theatre, especially influencing Broadway librettists and lyricists. According to The Cambridge History of English and American Literature, Gilbert's "lyrical facility and his mastery of metre raised the poetical quality of comic opera to a position that it had never reached before and has not reached since".

Birth and Death Data: Born November 18, 1836 (London), Died May 29, 1911 (London)

Date Range of DAHR Recordings: 1899 - 1942

Roles Represented in DAHR: librettist

= Recordings are available for online listening.
= Recordings were issued from this master. No recordings issued from other masters.

Recordings (Results 51-75 of 211 records)

Company Matrix No. Size First Recording Date Title Primary Performer Description Role Audio
Columbia 673 7-in. ca. 1902 The flowers that bloom in the spring Columbia Band Band librettist  
Columbia 673 10-in. ca. 1902 The flowers that bloom in the spring Columbia Band Band librettist  
Columbia 4086 10-in. ca. Jan.-June 1909 Farewell, my own Mixed vocal chorus (unidentified; Columbia Records) Mixed vocal chorus and dialogue, with orchestra librettist  
Columbia 19105 10-in. 11/11/1910 Katisha's song Merle Alcock Female vocal solo, with orchestra librettist  
Columbia 38125 10-in. 7/8/1912 Poor wandering one Grace Kerns Female vocal solo, with orchestra librettist  
Columbia 46196 10-in. 11/12/1915 The moon and I Grace Kerns Female vocal solo, with orchestra librettist  
Columbia 79141 10-in. 4/24/1920 The moon and I Lucy Gates Soprano vocal solo, with orchestra librettist  
Columbia 79575 10-in. 12/14/1920 The moon and I Alice Nielsen Soprano vocal solo, with orchestra librettist  
Columbia 81775 10-in. 5/12/1924 Haste to the wedding Frank Quinn ; Frank Quinn Piano accordion solo and male vocal solo (humming), with piano librettist  
Columbia 30523 12-in. 7/26/1910 Vocal gems Columbia Light Opera Company Mixed vocal chorus and soloists, with orchestra librettist  
Columbia 30790 12-in. 6/22/1911 H.M.S. Pinafore : Vocal gems Columbia Light Opera Company Mixed vocal chorus, with orchestra librettist  
Columbia 30905 12-in. ca. 1911 Gems from Pirates of Penzance Columbia Light Opera Company Mixed vocal chorus and soloists, with orchestra librettist  
Columbia 48833 12-in. 6/22/1916 Strange adventure Frank Croxton ; Margaret Keyes ; Morgan Kingston ; Florence Macbeth Mixed vocal quartet, with orchestra librettist  
Columbia 48834 12-in. 6/22/1916 Madrigal Frank Croxton ; Margaret Keyes ; Morgan Kingston ; Florence Macbeth Mixed vocal quartet, with orchestra librettist  
Columbia 48837 12-in. 6/23/1916 In a contemplative fashion Frank Croxton ; Margaret Keyes ; Morgan Kingston ; Florence Macbeth Mixed vocal quartet, with orchestra librettist  
Columbia 48847 12-in. 6/29/1916 I have a song to sing Frank Croxton ; Margaret Keyes Female-male vocal duet and chorus, with orchestra librettist  
Columbia 48961 12-in. 10/21/1916 A regular royal queen Harling Mixed Quartet Mixed vocal quartet, with orchestra librettist  
Columbia 49103 12-in. 1/30/1917 A wandering minstrel James Harrod Male vocal solo, with orchestra librettist  
Columbia 49831 12-in. 5/14/1920 The Mikado : Vocal gems Columbia Light Opera Company Mixed vocal ensemble, with orchestra librettist  
Columbia 6203 12-in. approximately 1911 When a wooer London Opera Quartet Vocal quartet librettist  
Columbia 6204 12-in. approximately 1911 Strange adventure London Opera Quartet Vocal quartet librettist  
Columbia 6218 12-in. approximately 1911 Like a ghost Robert Howe ; Walter Passmore Male vocal duet, with orchestra librettist  
Columbia 6219 12-in. approximately 1911 When I was a lad Walter Passmore Male vocal solo, with orchestra and chorus librettist  
Columbia 6220 12-in. approximately 1911 I have a song to sing o Hilda Francis ; Walter Passmore Male vocal duet, with orchestra librettist  
Columbia 6221 12-in. approximately 1911 Tit willow Walter Passmore Male vocal solo, with orchestra librettist  
(Results 51-75 of 211 records)

Citation

Discography of American Historical Recordings, s.v. "Gilbert, W. S.," accessed January 31, 2023, https://adp.library.ucsb.edu/names/102767.

Gilbert, W. S.. (2023). In Discography of American Historical Recordings. Retrieved January 31, 2023, from https://adp.library.ucsb.edu/names/102767.

"Gilbert, W. S.." Discography of American Historical Recordings. UC Santa Barbara Library, 2023. Web. 31 January 2023.

DAHR Persistent Identifier

URI: https://adp.library.ucsb.edu/names/102767

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