Programme cover for Iolanthe

Programme cover for Iolanthe

This programme was for Iolanthe, or, the Prince and the Peri, Gilbert and Sullivan's seventh comic opera. By November 1882 when it opened, the Savoy Theatre boasted electric light, which features as a motif on this programme. At the finale, there was another novel effect when the fairies switched on electric lights on their foreheads, wired to batteries strapped on their backs. This was an example of Gilbert’s sure instinct for a really theatrical moment. Operas by Gilbert and Sullivan were so popular by 1882 that unauthorised versions were produced in America, based on information leaked during rehearsals. Trying to foil piracy, Gilbert rehearsed Iolanthe as Perola and the cast was not told its real name until the final rehearsal. When they voiced their doubts about remembering the new name, Sullivan replied that it didn’t matter, as long as they sang the right music! It was given premieres in New York and London on the same day, in an attempt to copyright the authentic version on both sides of the Atlantic.