Our History. On November 18, 1960, a group of Hyde Parkers opened a production of Gilbert and Sullivan’s The Gondoliers in the University of Chicago’s Mandel Hall. From this beginning grew The Gilbert & Sullivan Opera Company, a not-for-profit corporation of the State of Illinois, which has staged more than fifty productions of the G&S full-length comic operas. That original presentation was directed by Nancy Lorie and associate director Robert Ashenhurst, with musical direction by Roland Bailey, the three founders of the Company. It involved more than one hundred people in performance and production. Most of these at that time were not at all familiar with the G&S tradition.
The Gondoliers was staged for the benefit of The Student Interests Program of the University High School, a worthy cause which allowed the group to use the University facilities. The same sponsorship, under the more formal organizational title Adventures in the Arts, endured for the major productions of the Company in Mandel Hall until 1983. In 1983 sponsorship was assumed by the University of Chicago Department of Music and net proceeds from each production benefit the Department’s performance programs.
Throughout its history the Company the goal has been to produce the best possible performances which are true to the traditional Gilbert & Sullivan style. The Company is very proud of its foundation as a strictly amateur organization. However, in the past couple of decades, in order to improve the quality of the production, the Company has offered very modest stipends for some of the critical positions. Our participants continue to be community residents as well as University students, faculty and staff, and a not inconsiderable number of persons from outside the community, who apparently have found the Company’s ambiance worth a commuting relationship. The extended family of the Company also includes many present and former children, who have thus been given the opportunity to see and absorb, and sometimes participate in, this continuing tradition.
The Gilbert & Sullivan Opera Company of Chicago: The First 50 Years traces the history of this Hyde Park mainstay. For those who have thrilled to the Companys performances over the years, this book contains a complete chronology of its first 50 productions, with full cast listings, production crews, selected program covers, and many photos featuring the principal stars. If youre part of a group of G&S fans mounting your own production, you may be inspired by the sets and costumes created by a variety of designers. For those who simply love the works of Gilbert and Sullivan, there are plot summaries of each opera and anecdotes about their first staging by the D’Oyly Carte Opera Company in London. Author Victoria Granacki was the Set Designer for the Company’s 2016 production of Princess Ida and its previous nine productions. The book is available from Amazon.com for $10 plus shipping and handling.