The Grand Duke

The Grand Duke

After 11 long years of “The Really Authentic Gilbert and Sullivan Performance Trust” presenting the famous works in Dunedin, they are winding things up with the big finale work The Grand Duke.

W S Gilbert and Arthur Sullivan began writing their comedic operas in the late nineteenth century, and have enjoyed continued international success decades after their deaths. Their witty and playful masterpieces directly influenced the development of musical theatre. The plays’ success even led to the building of the famous Savoy Theatre of London’s West End in 1881, specially crafted to host the operas. And what a long way these operas have come since then: from the West End to little old Dunedin.

It has been a 12-year-long plan for the Trust, who aimed to put all 13 works on in chronological order for the pleasure of the public. So far the Gilbert and Sullivan shows have been on at the Mayfair Theatre every year since October 2001, but it has not been an easy road. Operas are notorious for being a ton of hard work, with complicated scripts, musical scores and dances. With the added pressure of remaining true to the time period and style, it is no easy feat for the Trust, particularly in such a small town! But every year they become better and better, and have really made a name for themselves in our fair city, using predominantly local performers and directors. These productions are recognised as being a lot of hard work. The cast put lots of time and effort into rehearsals for the majority of the year. The rich costumes and sets make it a complete presentation that brings old school comedy back into our lives.

The Grand Duke has the same strong satirical themes and comedic switching of social norms as other G&S works. The opera’s fictional setting made it easier to comment on contemporary society, and offered more room to poke fun at the upper classes. The plot involves a troupe of actors gaining political power after the leading comedian duels the Grand Duke and, in a strange turn of events, wins. It seems jokes about actors getting nowhere in life have really stood the test of time. Classic.

You can see The Grand Duke on 7, 9 and 10 August at the Mayfair Theatre.
This article first appeared in Issue 19, 2012.
Posted 4:49pm Sunday 5th August 2012 by Bronwyn Wallace.