Opera Scotland

Utopia Limited 2022Scottish 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 at the specially-built Royal English Opera House (now the Palace Theatre, home of Harry Potter).  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 semi-staged production with a text by the director that will bring the satire up to date.  There are certainly some elements that need attention, including a spoof Christy Minstrels ensemble which must have been very funny in its day but is probably unacceptable in its original form.  Perhaps the erotic dream sequence involving lady cricketers gives greater scope - was Sir John Betjeman familiar with this section when he invented Joan Hunter Dunne?   For the first act finale the city trader recounts the advantage of limited liability should your business fail - 'But the liquidators say - never mind, you needn't pay -  so you start another company tomorrow!'

An interesting editorial decision is the removal of the character of the Public Exploder, a government official who is an ever-present threat to the monarch.  Gilbert presumably saw no limits to the reach of his satire in an age when anarchist outrages were happening.  This character is called Tarara - no doubt a reference to the popular chorus 'Ta-ra-ra-boom-de-ay' which had just become a hugely popular addition to the repertoire of Lottie Collins, one of the original 'Gaiety girls.'

Performance Cast

Princess Nekaya Second Daughter of King Paramount

Catriona Hewitson

Princess Kalyba Youngest Daughter of King Paramount

Sioned Gwen Davies

Phylla a Utopian Maiden

Zoë Drummond

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

Charlie Drummond

Captain FitzBattleaxe First Life Guards

William Morgan

Mr Goldbury a Company Promoter, later Comptroller of Utopian Household

Mark Nathan

Lord Dramaleigh a British Lord Chamberlain

Glen Cunningham

Sir Bailey Barre, QC, MP a Barrister and Politician

Osian Wyn Bowen

Captain Sir Edward Corcoran, KCB of the Royal Navy

Francis Church

Mr Blushington of the County Council

Richard Pinkstone

Performance DatesUtopia Limited 2022

Map List

Hackney Empire | London

1 Apr, 19.30

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