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date: 08 December 2019

Princess Ida [Princess Ida; or, Castle Adamant]locked

  • David Russell Hulme

Extract

[Princess Ida; or, Castle Adamant]

Operetta in three acts by Arthur Sullivan to a libretto by W(illiam) S(chwenck) Gilbert after Tennyson’s The Princess; London, Savoy Theatre, 5 January 1884.

Behind the mask of a medieval setting, the libretto satirizes contemporary concern with women’s education. Prince Hilarion (tenor), son of King Hildebrand (baritone), was betrothed in infancy to the Princess Ida (soprano), the daughter of King Gama (baritone). The marriage is thwarted, however, as Ida has renounced men and founded a women’s university. Eventually love overcomes her resolve and she agrees to marry, leaving Lady Blanche (contralto) to run the university.

The blank-verse dialogue and substantial cast requirements of this ‘respectful operatic per-version’ of Tennyson’s poem originate in Gilbert’s play The Princess (1870), of which the libretto is a reworking. Although the play had been reasonably successful, its operatic reincarnation proved a disappointment at the box office. Gilbert is not at his best in ...

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