Richard D’Oyly Carte (3 May 1844 – 3 April 1901)

Image: Carte’s Royal English Opera House later became a music hall, the Palace Theatre of Varieties, before becoming the Palace Theatre.

On 3rd January this year, I posted on the subject of Fred Karno and how “In 1912, eight years after Karno had first visited Tagg’s Island, he embarked on a huge gamble. He bought the island and the hotel.”

A walk westward alongside the Thames from Tagg’s Island for a couple of hours would bring you within sight of D’Oyly Carte Island.

From Wikipedia:

Around 1890, (Richard D’Oyly Carte) bought a small island in the River Thames, between Weybridge and Shepperton, called Folly Eyot, which he renamed D’Oyly Carte Island. He wanted to use the island as an annex to his new Savoy Hotel, but the local authorities refused to grant him a drinks licence for the property. Instead, he built Eyot House, a large house and garden on the island, that he used as a residence. In later years, Carte displayed his macabre sense of humour by keeping a crocodile on the island.”

Surrey Live reported on 12th January this year:

“An imposing 13-bedroom mansion situated on a small island between Weybridge and Shepperton has a suitably theatrical past.

Grade-II listed Eyot House, which until being bought recently was on the market for £3.2 million, makes quite the impression on its fantastically named D’Oyly Carte Island home.

Richard D’Oyly Carte, born in 1844, was a London theatre impresario who brought together dramatist WS Gilbert and composer Arthur Sullivan. A key theatreland figure in the latter part of the Victorian era, he built the Savoy Theatre in London and founded the D’Oyly Carte Opera Company.

…In its pomp the house was visited by many of D’Oyly Carte’s famous friends, including Gilbert and Sullivan…”

Christopher Fowler writes, in The Book of Forgotten Authors (2017):

(Thomas) Guthrie’s greatest ability was to portray the fantastic in everyday terms…Vice Versa…concerns a magic stone brought back from India that allows a father and son to switch bodies…This idea of a magical stone or potion was very popular at the time, and W.S.Gilbert frequently tried to foist it on the distinctly unimpressed Arthur Sullivan…”

From Wikipedia:

“…The first comic opera produced by the new company was Gilbert and Sullivan’s The Sorcerer in 1877, with a plot involving a tradesmanlike London magician and his patented love potion…

…When Princess Ida closed after a comparatively short run of nine months, for the first time in the partnership’s history, a new opera was not ready. Gilbert first suggested a plot in which people fell in love against their wills after taking a magic lozenge – a scenario that Sullivan had previously rejected. Gilbert eventually came up with a new idea and began work in May 1884.

Carte produced the first revival of The Sorcerer, together with Trial by Jury, and matinees of The Pirates of Penzance played by a cast of children, while he waited for his partners to finish writing the new work. This became the partnership’s most successful opera, The Mikado, which opened in March 1885…

…When Ruddigore closed after 288 performances over nine months, Carte mounted revivals of earlier Gilbert and Sullivan operas at the Savoy for almost a year. After another attempt by Gilbert to persuade Sullivan to set a “lozenge plot”, Gilbert met his collaborator half way by writing a serio-comic plot for The Yeomen of the Guard, which premiered in October 1888.”

Andrew Crowther writes for The Gilbert and Sullivan Archive: 

“…The Sorcerer is one of the pieces in which Gilbert uses the notorious “Lozenge Plot” that Sullivan so objected to later. This boils down to the use of some magic lozenge/potion/talisman etc. to make people act in odd or contrary ways. This plot may be one of the reasons why it hasn’t caught on like most of the other operas: once you’ve realized what the formula is – a parade of mismatched couples – it might seem a little monotonous. I think even Gilbert admitted that Sorcerer lacked “story”. 

And yet, when I saw a production about a year ago I was very impressed at how good it was – much better than I expected. The plotting seemed quite tight, though if I remember correctly things only really caught alight when (John Wellington Wells) came on. I suppose the main problem with the “Lozenge Plot” is its predictability. The structure is really very simple. 

Act 1: Original situation is laid before us, and at the end of the act everyone drinks the potion and it’s topsy-turvy time. Act 2: The consequences are worked out, but in the end the spell is reversed and everything goes back to normal. The solution is usually quite obvious well in advance, and the only question is, when will Gilbert decide to say “Enough!” and cut the knot?”

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