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The Grand Duke, or The Statutory Duel opened on March 7, 1896 at the Savoy Theatre, London. This last G&S opera ran for only 123 performances.
In the Grand Duke, Gilbert and Sullivan come full circle, back to the theme of their first collaboration: A troupe of actors takes political power. The Grand Duke suffers from many of the same problems as Utopia Limited — it has a long and rambling libretto — and it calls for more principal quality voices than the typical G&S opera. Nevertheless, the story contains a number of hilarious moments and funny characters, the settings are colourful and the music is cheery and flavourful. Some find this opera to be the most underrated of the G&S works.
Ludwig, an actor, replaces the company manager, Ernest, and then he replaces the miserly Grand Duke Rudolph of Pfennig Halbpfennig, after "killing" each of them by drawing the ace from a deck of cards in two "statutory" duels. By winning the statutory duels, Ludwig assumes all of Ernest's and Rudolph's rights and obligations. Soon he finds himself with far more wives, and prospective wives, than he knows what to do with. Never fear: once again, a lawyer solves the problem and all ends happily.
Page modified 24 April 2015