The Gilbert & Sullivan Opera Company Begins
a new idea in Hyde park
When The Gondoliers opened at the University of Chicago’s Mandel Hall on November 18, 1960, organizers Roland Bailey, together with brother and sister Robert Ashenhurst and Nancy Lorie, could not have foreseen that they were establishing a Hyde Park tradition that would delight audiences for sixty years.
GSOC, inc. is born
In 1964 the company formally incorporated as The Gilbert & Sullivan Opera Company, Inc. Its first president was Jerome Loeb, an advertising executive by day and transfer from the Darwin show, who served as president until 1966. A semi-professional actor with a flair for melodrama, he had sung his first principal role as Guiseppe in Gondoliers, and sang five others through 1970. A co-director for three seasons, he took on many production tasks—as so many others in the cast often did—even providing wigs for Gondoliers.
Hello, Beverly Arts Center
A 16-year engagement
Beginning in 1979 and for sixteen years thereafter, the Gilbert & Sullivan Opera Company followed its Mandel Hall production with an appearance at the Beverly Arts Center as part of its Bravo!! series. Typically offering a matinee and a Saturday night performance in Beverly, the first of the series was The Mikado in 1979—and the company was paid!
The University of Chicago
a lasting partnership
Princess Ida in 1984 marked the beginning of sponsorship by the University of Chicago‘s Department of Music with proceeds benefiting its performance programs, an association that continues to this day. This also marked the beginning of a fifteen-year association with the department-sponsored Summer Nights‖ or Summer Opera Festival as it was alternately called—a series of weekend performances held outdoors in Hutchinson Court.
a centennial revival
First produced on October 7, 1893, Utopia (Limited) was just a modest success. It ran for 245 performances on the D‘Oyly Carte stage but then disappeared until 1975, when it was briefly revived and recorded. The GSOC made some cuts and presented its version once in 1993, on the opera‘s centennial anniversary, under the directorial banner of David Currie and with Michael Swisher as King Paramount the First. Other company regulars, Ruth Lidecka and Michael Kotze, had the principal roles of Lady Sophy and Mr. Goldbury.
celebrating 50 years
2010 marked the Gilbert & Sullivan Opera Company’s 50th year with a production of The Mikado. This year also saluted the 26 years of successful collaboration of theUniversity of Chicago Department of Music and the Gilbert & Sullivan Opera Company. In celebration of the Company’s 50th Anniversary, the Company and the Special Collections Research Center of The University of Chicago Library mounted an exhibition of Company costumes, props, photographs, programs, and set models from some of the Company’s most memorable shows.
The Supertitles Project
With a view to aiding understanding, the Company conducted an experiment to try “supertitles” for two of the 2012 performances of The Gondoliers. We asked for feedback and over 90% of the respondents said we should continue the supertitles. Supertitles have been an element of every main stage production since then.