Princess Ida

The Plot


In Act 1, Royal Hildy waits for Gama, a king,
Who's daughter, fair Ida's betrothed with a ring,
At only one year to Hilarion a prince,
In spite of his name, he really don't mince.
But now she's the head of Adamant's fort,
The chance of a man ent'ring there is naught.
So Scynthius and Guron and Arac and Gama,
Are chucked into jail with all of their armour.

Act 2 finds the women are studying man,
I think it's all part of their feminist plan.
Blanche thinks that all chaps are a bit of a mess
So Sachy's chucked out for playing with chess.
Hilarion's three jump over the wall,
And dress up in drag, that's not clever at all.
When invited to lunch Cyril starts on the piss,
And shows that he's more of a master than a miss.
The three men are arrested then soldiers invade
Ida's plan for the college have started to fade.
Betrothed to Hilarion at one she'll now learn
This vow's not to be broken, Splash! But Ida stands firm.

Act 3 and the girls are preparing for battle with men,
They're not very happy about it, but then,
A fight is arranged, a rumble with shouts,
Twixt Gama's dumb lads and Hildies great louts
But who'll win the battle? To whom is the prize?
In autumns long practices your answer lies.

Press Release

"Princess Ida" is unique in the G&S canon in that it has three acts and is written in blank verse. This should not put off the lover of G&S operettas, as this is one of the best of the series for music and entertainment. Gilbert pokes fun at a wide range of targets including the education of women (a hot topic in the 1880's) and a subject still controversial in Texas and other southern states, the Darwinian theory of evolution.

It comes between Iolanthe (1883) and The Mikado (1885) and has recently had rather a bad press because of the otherwise generous film by Mike Leigh (Topsy Turvy). In the film the show is cited as a failure although in reality it ran for 9 months.

Sullivan was less than enthusiastic about Gilbert's proposal to rework the earlier production of 'The Princess' (which had music taken from other sources). He preferred this, however, to the alternative which concerned a magic lozenge. This Sullivan felt had been over-used in the Sorcerer!

Princess Ida had generally favourable reviews from the London papers of the day. The Sunday Times and the Observer agreed on the quality of Sullivan's music and Gilberts humour (..Sullivan's music, whilst more ambitious in many of it's elements than in other comic operas, seems sure of gaining speedy popularity) however curiously the Sporting Times felt that "It was a desperately dull performance .. there was not three and a half jokes worth remembering throughout three and a half hours' misery". Perhaps the author would rather have been at the races !!

The music for Princess Ida is some of the finest that Sullivan wrote. Sullivan's musical style is a mixture of parodies of Italian operas (of the time), English oratorio choruses, folksong and ballads. Princess Ida is notable for the quality of the parodies of Handel arias, particularly the fine Act 3 number 'This helmet I suppose'.

Also of note is the wonderful series of ensembles in Act 2 where the music builds from two trios, through a quartet and quintet then a duet. The music for all these numbers is as good or better than anything else in the G&S canon.

The plot of Princess Ida is taken from a narrative poem by Tennyson. This was used as the basis of " a whimsical allegory .. a respectful operatic per-version of Mr Tennyson's poem". This was 'The Princess' written in 1870 by Gilbert. This was not a great success for the author. The libretto of 'Princess Ida' is almost the same as 'The Princess' with a few changes, the dialogues in the opera are shortened to allow Sullivan's music full rein. Music is also used advance the plot in the opera. The ambitious number of five hundred girls in Ida's college are reduced to a hundred for the Savoy stage.

For our production of 'Princess Ida' we have slightly modified the opera text with some modern allusions where artistically appropriate. We have also interpolated some of the material from the original play where we felt it enhanced the plot. One character, Gobbo, the gatekeeper in the play and lost to the opera, has been re-introduced but has been modified in keeping with Ida's feminist views as Gabby.We considered at length the setting of the opera. In Tennyson's original and Gilbert's two versions the setting is not specified except as warring mediaeval kingdoms. We considered resetting it in the 20th century using suffragette themes or Royal Holloway College as an early women's university (the alma mater of the musical director) but eventually decided to retain the original character of the piece. So our setting is somewhere in mediaeval Europe.

In keeping with the period, we decided to make the battle scene in Act 3, normally set as a sword fight, into a fully staged jousting event. However the hall management might frown upon the use of battle chargers on the Milborne Port stage .. and think of the clearing up after the performance.

The solution to our problem will be revealed in performance, thanks to one of our stage managers for the original ideas.

The Cast

Solo Parts Description 2002
King Hildebrand Chris Bailward
Hilarion Hildebrand's Son James Craw
Cyril Hilarion's Friend Tony White
Florian Hilarion's Friend Nick Grundy
King Gama John Forrest
Arac Gama's Son Nick Presdee
Guron Gama's Son Trevor John
Scynthius Gama's Son Peter Mumford
Princess Ida Gama's Daughter Olwen Kieser
Lady Blanche Professor of Abstract Science Linda Mumford
Lady Psyche Professor of Humanities Sam Brook
Melissa Lady Blanche's Daughter Lizzie Jeans
Gaby Naomi Thorp
Sacharissa Girl Graduate Rosie Marcus
Chole Girl Graduate Allison Edwards
Ada Girl Graduate Naomi Haskett


Photos 2002

Opera Photo Opera Photo Opera Photo Opera Photo Opera Photo Opera Photo Opera Photo Opera Photo Opera Photo Opera Photo

The Music

To download all of the Noteworthy files for Princess Ida in a zip click here (310k)
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To listen to the midi files click on the M next to the title.
To listen to our recorded rehersals and performance in MP3 format click on the 3

Act 1

Introduction N M Search throughout the panorama N M 3 Now hearken to my strict command N M
Today we meet N M From the distant panorama N M We are warriors three N M
If you give me your attention N M Act 1 finale - P'raps if you address the lady N M 3(For a Month to Dwell)  

Act 2

Towards the empyrean heights N M Mighty maiden with a mission N M Minerva! oh, hear me N M
And thus to empyrean heights N M Come mighty must N M Gently, gently N M
I am a maiden N M The world is but a broken toy N M A lady fair of lineage high N M
The woman of the wisest wit N M Now wouldn't you like N M Merrily ring the luncheon bell N M
Would you know the kind of maid N M Finale Act 2-Oh joy our chief is saved N M  

Act 3

Death to the invader! N M Whene'er I spoke N M I built upon a rock N M
When anger spreads his wing N M 3 This helmet I suppose N M This is our duty N M
Finale - With joy abiding N M