Opera Scotland

Utopia Limited 2021Scottish Opera

Read more about the opera Utopia, Limited

A Great Rarity Revived

The received opinion of Utopia Limited (the formally correct comma was eventually removed) has always been that it represented a sad falling off in quality by comparison with its immediate predecessor, The Gondoliers.  This is simply inaccurate, though it may be accepted that the final collaboration of Gilbert and Sullivan, The Grand Duke, of 1896, is indeed inferior.

Utopia only followed The Gondoliers in the sense that it was the next G&S piece.  The partners had a notorious falling out in 1890 and while negotiations to reunite them continued on and off, Sullivan worked on his famous grand opera Ivanhoe, which enjoyed a long run in London.  This was followed in 1892 by Haddon Hall, a more romantic comedy than G&S were used to providing.  It had a text by the successful playwright Sydney Grundy.  Gilbert also collaborated on new work with other composers, though less successfully.

As a result of this, when the partnership resumed, Utopia, Limited became a more ambitious piece, with a large cast of solo roles and greater demands in terms of sets and costumes.  The targets of Gilbert's satire include most elements of  Victorian Britain's establishment - the army, navy, press, law, local government, city traders and the royal family.  While it was initially quite successful, it was expensive to put on, so professional revivals were not undertaken during the 20th century because of the cost.

We are promised a text by the director that will bring the satire up to date.  There are some elements that need attention, including a spoof Christy Minstrels ensemble which must have been very funny but is probably unacceptable in its original form.  Perhaps the dream sequence involving lady cricketers gives greater scope. 


The effects of Coronavirus

It was sadly inevitable that the run of performances of this new staging, originally promised for the spring of 2020, would fall a victim to the burgeoning threat of the Coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic that swept the world during the first quarter of that year, with its effect continuing for many months.   It was made clear on Monday, 16 March, that all meeting places of any significance - pubs, restaurants, concert halls, theatres and opera houses - would be closed for a significant duration. Not only was the scheduled new staging of  A Midsummer Night's Dream cancelled, but also the subsequent productions of  The Gondoliers and Utopia, Limited,   The concert performances of Cavalleria rusticana and Zingari  also bit the dust.  It is hoped that they will all be revived when the theatres reopen, with luck sooner rather than later.  The two Gilbert and Sullivan works were the first to emerge from their temporary oblivion.

The original 2020 performances were scheduled for Thursday 21/05 at 19.15 in the Theatre Royal, Glasgow;  Friday 12/06 at 19.15 in the Usher Hall, Edinburgh and Friday 17/07 at 19.30 in Hackney Empire.

The two rescheduled performances at major venues in the central belt are to feature many of the same singers who appear in the full-scale production of The Gondoliers that runs concurrently.

A third performance will be given in London, at the Hackney Empire, on 01 April, 2022.

This cast is provisional, based on what was known of the original plans for 2020.  The only change we are aware of is the arrival of Yvonne Howard as Lady Sophy.  She has also joined the Gondoliers cast and during summer 2021 sang Ruth in Pirates of Penzance at Opera Holland Park.

Performance Cast

Princess Nekaya Second Daughter of King Paramount

Charlie Drummond

Princess Kalyba Youngest Daughter of King Paramount

Sioned Gwen Davies

Scaphio a Judge of the Utopian Supreme Court

Richard Suart

Phantis a Judge of the Utopian Supreme Court

Arthur Bruce

Lady Sophy an English Gouvernante

Yvonne Howard

King Paramount the First King of Utopia

Ben McAteer

Princess Zara Eldest Daughter of King Paramount

Ellie Laugharne

Captain FitzBattleaxe First Life Guards

William Morgan

Mr Goldbury a Company Promoter, later Comptroller of Utopian Household

Mark Nathan

Performance DatesUtopia Limited 2021

Map List

Theatre Royal, Glasgow | Glasgow

20 Oct, 19.15

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Festival Theatre, Edinburgh | Edinburgh

5 Nov, 19.15

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