British Library acquires Gilbert and Sullivan archive

107-year-old Gilbert and Sullivan archive heads to London 

The D'Oyly Carte 1955 production of The Mikado (Credit: Getty Images)

The British Library has today announced its acquisition of the D’Oyly Carte Theatre Company archive. Documenting 107 years of productions, the archive is made up of comprehensive records from the company’s founding by Richard D’Oyly Carte in 1875, until its closure in 1982.

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One of the particular highlights of the archive is Arthur Sullivan's personal score of Iolanthe, previously the last Sullivan score in a private collection. It is accompanied by a wealth of material, including recordings, cigarette cards, photographs of the stars, financial records and contracts, press cuttings, libretti and band parts. The documents provide an insight into the changes and challenges the D'Oyly Carte Theatre Company faced over its 107-year-long history, and into changes in British theatre over the period. 

Impresario Richard D’Oyly Carte commissioned his first Gilbert and Sullivan production in 1875, the one-act comic opera Trial by Jury. Its success led to a fruitful relationship between D’Oyly Carte and G&S, until a financial quarrel in 1890 ended the alliance. D’Oyly Carte Theatre Company continued to produce G&S operettas, and staged performances throughout the British Empire on multiple extended tours. 

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Profits from the sale of their archive will allow D’Oyly Carte Theatre Company to tour the UK with their production of The Mikado, in collaboration with Scottish Opera. The production will star Stephen Richardson as The Mikado, and Andrew Shore as Pooh-Bah, and will run from 5 May – 1 July 2016.