Gilbert, Sir W(illiam) S(chwenck)

Gilbert, Sir W(illiam) S(chwenck)

biographical name

(born Nov. 18, 1836, London, Eng.—died May 29, 1911, Harrow Weald, Middlesex) British librettist. His early ambition was for a legal career, but in 1861 he began to publish comic ballads, illustrated by himself and signed “Bab.” In 1870 he met Arthur Sullivan, and they soon produced the light opera Thespis (1871), which was followed by Trial by Jury (1875) and four productions staged by Richard D'Oyly Carte: The Sorcerer (1877), H.M.S. Pinafore (1878), The Pirates of Penzance (1879), and Patience (1881). Carte built the Savoy Theatre in 1881 for productions of the partners' work, which became known as the “Savoy Operas”; these later operettas included Iolanthe (1882), Princess Ida (1884), The Mikado (1885), Ruddigore (1887), The Yeomen of the Guard (1888), and The Gondoliers (1889). Mounting tensions between Gilbert and Sullivan led to a break, but they reunited in 1893 to produce Utopia Limited and later The Grand Duke (1896). Gilbert died of a heart attack brought on while rescuing a woman from drowning. His lyrics include some of the finest comic verse ever written in English.

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