Gondoliers, The [The Gondoliers; or, The King of Barataria]
- David Russell Hulme
[The Gondoliers; or, The King of Barataria]
Operetta in two acts by Arthur Sullivan to a libretto by W(illiam) S(chwenck) Gilbert ; London, Savoy Theatre, 7 December 1889.
The Gondoliers was the last great collaboration between Sullivan and Gilbert, although they did write two later works. The libretto – one of Gilbert’s finest, most balanced and most human – combines the baby-swapping of HMS Pinafore with a kidnapping recalling the author’s claim to have been abducted in infancy by Neapolitan bandits. In the operetta the endangered infant heir to the throne of Barataria is stolen by the Grand Inquisitor, Don Alhambra del Bolero (baritone), and left to be reared by a Venetian gondolier. When the time comes for the prince to succeed to the throne, the Inquisitor seeks out the gondolier’s sons, Marco (tenor) and Giuseppe (baritone). Unable to ascertain which should be king, he empowers them to rule jointly for the time being. Forced to leave behind their new brides, Gianetta (soprano) and Tessa (mezzo-soprano), they arrive in Barataria, where they appease republican sympathies by promoting equality throughout the king dom. Their wives appear and soon they discover that the infant prince was betrothed to Casilda (soprano), daughter of the Duke (baritone) and Duchess (contralto) of Plaza-Toro who have arrived to secure the marriage. Casilda, however, loves Luiz (baritone), the family servant. This awkward situation is resolved when the prince’s former nurse reveals that, in time of danger, she had substituted her own baby for the royal one; the boy she had reared, Luiz, is thus the rightful king....