When Gustav Holst, the future composer of The Planets, was born, Gilbert and Sullivan were yet to compose Trial by Jury. The young Gustav became a fan, and his G&S-inspired Lansdown Castle was his first public success. His mature comic opera, The Perfect Fool, shows several Gilbert and Sullivan traits, including the surreal humour of their last two works, Utopia, Limited and The Grand Duke.
Read more about Holst and his work here
Winner of the 100m at the Paris Olympics in 1924, sprinter Harold Abrahams was a major G&S nut, as is celebrated in Chariots of Fire. However, the 1981 film gets the wrong Sybil – Abrahams was engaged not to leading Gilbert and Sullivan mezzo Sybil Gordon as it portrays, but to Sybil Evers, who sang smaller roles with the D’Oyly Carte company.
Serge Diaghilev and Igor Stravinsky
While in London, the impresario of the Ballets Russes and his star composer, by Stravinsky’s own account, would often ‘steal off together to The Pirates of Penzance, Patience, Iolanthe etc.’ Alas, details of Stravinsky’s interest in Gilbert and Sullivan were subsequently garbled by a ghost writer, and Stravinsky fans who bridle at the idea of their modernist hero relishing anything so ‘vulgar’ dismiss the very idea.
Read more about Stravinsky and his works here
Peter Maxwell Davies
At the tender age of four, Maxwell Davies was taken to a performance of The Gondoliers at Salford Central Mission (sadly, since demolished); he was so enchanted that he became a lifelong Gilbert and Sullivan fan, and decided then and there to become a composer.
A Night at the Opera may have been the title of the 1975 Queen album, but the closest it came to that genre was Freddie Mercury’s ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’, the middle section of which one critic aptly described as ‘Gilbert and Sullivan operatics’. Mercury had an enduring affection for Gilbert and Sullivan and sang several of their hits when relaxing with musician friends.