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Biography

"Gilbert and Sullivan" refers to the Victorian-era partnership of librettist W. S. Gilbert (1836–1911) and composer Arthur Sullivan (1842–1900). Together, they wrote fourteen comic operas between 1871 and 1896, of which H.M.S. Pinafore, The Pirates of Penzance, and The Mikado are among the best known.

Gilbert, who wrote the words, created fanciful topsy-turvy worlds for these operas, where each absurdity is taken to its logical conclusion — fairies rub elbows with English lords, flirting is a capital offence, gondoliers ascend to the monarchy, and pirates turn out to be noblemen who have gone wrong. Sullivan, seven years younger than Gilbert, composed the music, contributing memorable melodies that could convey both humour and pathos.

Producer Richard D'Oyly Carte brought Gilbert and Sullivan together and nurtured their collaboration. He built the Savoy Theatre in 1881 to present their joint works - which came to be known as the Savoy Operas - and he founded the D'Oyly Carte Opera Company, which performed and promoted their works for over a century.

The Gilbert and Sullivan operas have enjoyed broad and enduring international success and are still performed frequently throughout the English-speaking world. The collaboration introduced innovations in content and form that directly influenced the development of musical theatre through the twentieth century. The two have produced many famous works that are still enjoyed today, uncluding Mikado, HMS Pinafore, and The Pirates of Penzance.

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