“By this ingenious law, if any two shall quarrel,
they may not fight with falchions bright
(Which seemed to him immoral);
but each a card shall draw, and he who draws the lowest
shall (so ’twas said) Be henceforth dead,
in fact, a legal “ghoest!”

—Dr. Tannhuser, a Notary
The Grand Duke
The Gilbert & Sullivan Very Light Opera Company's Production of

The Grand Duke or The Statutory Duel

April 12 to 28, 1991

Photo Gallery

The Grand Duke Program


Stage Director: Kathe Norlander
Music Director Carolyn Davies
Artistic Director: Wendy Evans

Director’s Note

The Grand Duke was Gilbert and Sullivan’s final collaboration and was met with less than favorable reviews when it opened in 1896.  It has been rarely performed, but with the very studied and astute editing of the Gilbert & Sullivan Very Light Opera Company, what you see tonight is a massively improved version of the original.  As in most Gilbert and Sullivan works, The Grand Duke shows a community of people with definite levels of status within a social hierarchy.  In this case, there are levels within the theatrical group, which is within the social steps of the Dukedom of Phennig Halfphennig.  Just as in a game of chess, the pieces (characters) are moving in relation to their value – in this case, social value.  The game-playing theme is dominant throughout the play, in keeping with the Gilbert and Sullivan “playfulness” of setting the scene in Bavaria, and being visited by a very exotic band from Monte Carlo.  The playing of games marks the structural points in this opera and provides the basis for the traditional Gilbert and Sullivan consistency of inconsistent plot elements.  I invite you to play along with us for this performance, enjoying the amazing fervor with which this group revels in a unique form of musical theatre.

Kathe Norlander

Two excellent internet resources for information about The Grand Duke:

Wikipedia – The Grand Duke

The Gilbert & Sullivan Archive – The Grand Duke

The Grand Duke 1991 Show Poster

Show Poster

The Grand Duke 1991 Company Photo

Company Photo

Photography by Daniels Studio

“Well, you’re a pretty kind of fellow, thus my life to shatter, O!
 My little store of gold and silver recklessly you scatter, O!
 You guzzle and you gormandize all day with cup and platter, O!
 And eat my food and drink my wine, especially the latter, O!”

—The Grand Duke Rudolph
The Grand Duke