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The Gondoliers

Libretto by WS Gilbert and music by Sir Arthur Sullivan

When WS Gilbert was a child, he was kidnapped while on a family-holiday in Naples.  Fifty years later, this incident was to influence the plot of 'The Gondoliers'. 

Act One opens on a group of ladies with extraordinary floral tributes awaiting two gallant Gondolieri - Marco and Giuseppe Palmieri.  The two brothers are in Venice to choose their brides and at length, achieve their captures - Tessa and Gianetta.  Without delay, the new lovers hurry to the altar.  Stormy weather descends on the island and the Ducal party arrive from the 'sunny Spanish shore'.  The Duke of Plaza-Toro, a grandee with faded glory (but enormous social influence), is accompanied by the Duchess (who enjoys a little 'wine with her dinner'), their daughter Casilda and Luiz, the Duke's token 'suite'.  Unbeknown to the Duke and Duchess, Casilda is in love with Luiz.  It is revealed, to Casilda's despair, that when only an infant, she was married by proxy to the infant son and heir to the King of Barataria.  Soon after the wedding, the King 'abandoned the creed of his forefathers' and became a Wesleyan Methodist.  The Grand Inquisitor of Spain, Don Alhambra del Bolero, was so disgusted with this treacherous act that he abducted the young Prince and brought him to Venice where he was entrusted to a highly respectable Gondolier.  A fortnight since, the King was killed in an uprising and the Prince, who has led an anonymous life since, is to be found and crowned the reigning King of Barataria.  However, the prospect of being Queen of Barataria doesn't appear to excite Casilda very much.

The Grand Inquisitor reveals to the Ducal party that he knows the whereabouts of the Prince and confirms that it is either Marco or Giuseppe.  Unfortunately, unbeknown to the Grand Inquisitor, Marco and Giuseppe have married Tessa and Gianetta.  The Grand Inquisitor disrupts the wedding celebrations and informs the brothers that one of them is the King of Barataria -- oh, and that one is also an innocent bigamist!  However, the identity of the monarch lies with Inez, the Prince's former nurse, and until she is found, the brothers are encouraged to practise their new role as rulers of Barataria.  Ladies are not permitted in the Palace and the brothers grudgingly leave their wives to spend their honeymoons separately. 
After a three month period, in Act Two, a socialistic monarchy has been etablished in Barataria.  Tessa and Gianetta, who could not wait to be united with their husbands, risked their lives and sailed to Barataria.  Unfortunately, Casilda has arrived to receive her husband and Tessa and Gianetta face the awful prospect of legislative spinsterhood.  The foregathered people of Barataria watch with bated breath as Inez, the Prince's nursemaid, who has been dragged from the depths of a torture chamber, reveals the true indentity of the King of Barataria................






Gondoliers - Photos by George Knox

Act 1 opening chorus